Peter Whiteford ignites card bid with eye-catching 67

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Paul Shields still leads the Scottish card challenge but Peter Whiteford made one of the day’s biggest thrusts as the European Tour’s Qualifying School reached the halfway stage at PGA Catalunya, near Girona.

Playing his third round on the less demanding Tour Course, Shields had moved into the top 15 in the 108-hole battle for 25 cards after covering the first 16 holes in four-under before finishing bogey-bogey to slip back to a share of 26th on seven-under.

Sitting just one shot outside a card-winning position, it’s been a splendid effort so far by the 24-year-old Kirkhill player, especially considering this is the first time he’s played in the final stage.

An old hand in comparison, Whiteford ignited his bid to regain the main Tour card he’d held for five years before losing it at the end of the 2014 season with a best-of-the day 67 on the more demanding Stadium Course.

The five-under-par effort was illuminated by an eagle and five birdies as the 35-year-old Fifer leapt more than 50 spots into a tie for 53rd on three-under.

“Today was the best I played for easily two years,” admitted Whiteford, who used a short break back home between playing in the Challenge Tour Grand Final in the Middle East and travelling out to Spain to get a swing MOT from his brother, Stewart.

“I was hitting balls straight after I got back from Oman and it is paying off as I’m finally back hitting some proper shots,” he added.

“In my good rounds over the last year and a half, I’ve been glad to get back in the clubhouse but today I felt as I was running out of holes and wanted to make a couple more birdies. It’s been a long time since I felt like that, so I am happy.”

With all of the players currently sitting above him playing their fourth rounds on the Stadium layout, Whiteford knows he has given himself an opportunity to get into card contention over the final 36 holes.

“I needed a good one and on the back of a round like this I now feel good enough to get back on Tour, which wasn’t the case as recently as a fortnight ago,” he declared. “There’s a long way to go, but I’ve got a wee chance tomorrow to get back in the mix and see what happens from there.”

Sitting between Shields and Whiteford on five-under is David Law, who posted four birdies in his 68 on the Tour track to sit joint-39th.

As for the other Scots, Scott Henry and Ross Kellett had to settle for level-par 70s on the Tour Course, slipping 14 spots in the process to share 64th position on two-under.

It was an even more damaging day for Jack Doherty and Bradley Neil as they both slipped out of the top 100 after carding 75 and 76 respectively while George Murray is 148th in the 156-man field after a 79.

Austrian Lukas Nemecz retained the lead with a 66 for 14-under but was joined at the head of affairs by Swedish teenager Marcus Kinhult after he went one better.

With the top 70 and ties making it through to the final two rounds, former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari is one outside that cut-off on level-par.