Scott Jamieson and Craig Lee had contrasting European Tour card fortunes as Padraig Harrington turned back the clock in the Portugal Masters to win on this side of the Atlantic for the first time since retaining his Open Championship title in 2008.
Jamieson held on to his playing rights by just over £7,000 as he finished 108th in the Race to Dubai after the last regular event of the season, but Lee fell around £1,500 short of the safety zone as he dropped three spots to 113th after missing the cut in Vilamoura.
“It’s obviously a big relief,” admitted Jamieson, pictured right, at the end of a nerve-jangling four days on the Algarve. “It was a bit of a struggle the first half of the season, but since the Czech Masters (in August), I’ve started to play a lot better. It’s nice to sneak over the line just at the end, but it’s not where I want to be.”
It was the second year in a row that the Scot had left it late to secure his card, having ended up 106th on the money-list 12 months ago. He can now look forward to a seventh successive season on the circuit, though, and is determined not to be in the same position again in a year’s time.
“At the end of the year I want to be more at the top end of things and not having to have sleepless nights,” he added. “Last week at the British Masters, the round that I had on the Friday to make the cut there was massive. That was nice to know that I can really do it under the gun with the card on the line. But I’ve got to find a way to be able to do that a little more often.”
On a day when Mikko Korhonen, who finished joint third behind Harrington, Oliver Fisher and Jason Scrivener all came from outside the top 111 at the start of the event to keep their cards, former Ryder Cup player David Howell secured the last spot by just £89 from fellow Englishman Graeme Strorm as Lee was left helpless to save himself in the end.
Harrington signed off with a flawless 65 for a 23-under-par 261 total, winning by a shot from defending champion Andy Sullivan. It was the Irishman’s 15th European Tour triumph but first in a regular event since the 2007 Irish Open. His most recent win had been in the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour last March. On this evidence, though, it is easy to see why the 45-year-old believes the 2018 Ryder Cup in France is too early for him to be thinking about the European captaincy.
“It’s a big win,” he admitted after holing a bunker shot at the 11th before then getting up and down at the 16th, 17th and 18th, where he held his nerve to roll in a four-foot par putt for the title. “I’ve been coming here for ten years, so I’ve always liked it down here. I tried to be really aggressive. The golf course suited me and I just tried to go after every pin I could and make birdies. I have a pretty good short game that was on form this week.”
Paul Lawrie finished joint fifth – his best performance of the season – after signing for seven birdies in a closing 67. “I really struggled with ball striking all week so -20 was a fantastic effort. I putted really nice,” said the 47-year-old. He finished 121st in the Race to Dubai but along with Stephen Gallacher, who ended up 129th, hangs on to a card through being in the top 40 on the career money-list.
Marc Warren, who shared the lead at halfway, had to settle for a share of 12th alongside Gallacher but climbed two spots to 66th in the Race to Dubai, swapping places with another of his compatriots, Richie Ramsay, after he finished joint 31st. David Drysdale, who had already secured his card, claimed a share of 44th, just ahead of Jamiesion in joint-50th.