Baker fights for tour survival

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The Independent Online

Peter Baker and Colin Montgomerie, Ryder Cup team-mates at The Belfry in 1993 and Walker Cup colleagues eight years before that, find themselves in starkly different situations at the Madrid Open here today.

While Montgomerie's aim is to stop his slide down the world rankings - he is down from 10th two years ago to 66th - Baker is involved in a make-or-break effort to save his European tour career. Exempt since he turned professional 18 years ago, he goes into the final counting event 121st in the Order of Merit and needing to climb six places to avoid his first trip to qualifying school.

"It's battle stations and all I can do is give it my best shot," Baker said. "There's no getting away from the fact that I've played poorly for the last three years and it's been tough. I don't want to be struggling - I want to be competitive. I've become so inconsistent and I need to get away from it for a while and then try to sort it out."

Baker has finished 125th and 126th on the money list the past two seasons, but the 1988 Benson and Hedges champion was kept alive then by his career earnings of more than £2m. Now the 37-year-old has lost his place in the top 40, however, and finds himself in the fight for the last few exempt spots.

For two other former Ryder Cup players that fight is already over. Neither David Gilford, 136th on the money list, nor the 1999 Open runner-up Jean van de Velde, 170th, are in the Madrid field.

Among those with one more chance are the former Dunhill Cup winner, Jamie Spence, who is now chairman of the tournament committee, Scotland's World Cup player Gary Orr and England's Simon Wakefield, who had hoped his fifth place in the Heritage tournament at Woburn three weeks ago would be good enough to keep him on tour. Wakefield must make the cut to have a chance of surviving.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, up to 16th in the world, is favourite for the title and Montgomerie and David Howell are the only other members of Europe's Ryder Cup side competing here.