O'Hara and Orr Make Swift Return to European Tour
Steven O’Hara and Gary Orr excelled under pressure to comfortably secure return tickets to The European Tour in 2012, both finishing inside the top 10 at the Final Stage of Qualifying School in Spain.
The Scots pair lost their cards at the end of the season after failing to finish inside the coveted top 115 in the Race to Dubai rankings – O’Hara was 131st and Orr 137th - but they have quickly regained their playing privileges.
Despite the pressure of the final 18 holes at the annual six-round scramble for cards at PGA Catalunya in Girona, a test regarded as one of the toughest in golf, O’Hara and Orr used all their experience to come through with flying colours to secure two of the 37 cards on offer from a starting field of 156.
Motherwell’s O’Hara – the 2000 Scottish Amateur champion at Dornoch and a former Walker team-mate of Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell - was tied for 11th at the start of play today, but surged to the top of the standings after five birdies in eight holes from the eighth. A bogey at the last spoilt his day for a four-under-par 68, but it hardly mattered as the 31-year-old, one of the finest ball strikers around, shared fifth place overall at 17-under, four shots behind Final Stage winner David Dixon of England.
“I was quite nervous for some reason,” admitted O'Hara. “I've been playing great. I've been hitting the ball better as the week’s gone on so that gave me good confidence. I missed a couple of short putts today as well. I was a bit edgy on the greens, but apart from that I’m delighted."
“It was a disappointing year,” he continued. “I played really well and the problem was I was last in the putting stats, which is disappointing because I’m hitting the ball well but getting no results. Hopefully I can get it going a bit next year.”
Two-time tour champion Orr faced a pressure-packed day, teeing off sitting just inside the top 30, but he produced arguably one of his finest-ever rounds, a bogey-free seven-under-par 65, to finish in a tie for eighth spot. It was the joint-best round of the week over the Stadium Course.
The 44-year-old Helensburgh pro, who played on a medical exemption after being plagued by back problems last season, carded three birdies on the front nine and four on the back to surge through the field and ensure he is back on the main circuit in 2012.
“I was eight under starting today but in some ways you are almost better to be in that position because you know you have to shoot a good score,” said Orr, who secured his card for the 20th consecutive season year on The European Tour.
But there was not such good news for Chris Doak, the former Northern Open champion. The 33-year-old, who was 36th in the Challenge Tour rankings last season, needed to shoot a low final round to have any chance of gaining a card. Sadly, the Glaswegian posted a worst-of-his-week 74 to miss the top 30 by three shots.
Previously, six other Scots failed to survive the cut for the final two rounds – Callum Macaulay, Scott Drummond, Alastair Forsyth, Alan McLean and the Saltman brothers, Elliot and Lloyd – joining the likes of Jarmo Sandelin, Paul Broadhurst and Nick Dougherty, who also missed the cut, on the lower tiers in 2012.