Claydon in struggle to salvage career

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The Independent Online

Two years after the win many people thought could turn him into a real European Tour star, England's Russell Claydon finds himself battling for his future in Spain.

Two years after the win many people thought could turn him into a real European Tour star, England's Russell Claydon finds himself battling for his future in Spain.

Claydon, who has earned more than £1.5m during his career as well as playing for England in the Alfred Dunhill Cup in 1997, is back at the tour qualifying school at San Roque for the first time since turning professional. His slump from 53rd on the Order of Merit last season to 125th this year has meant that he must line up with 167 other hopefuls fighting for 35 places on next year's circuit. However, the cards are only handed out after six rounds of torture when any one of the 108 holes can ruin a week's work.

One of only four players in Tour history to have holed 12 birdies in one round - that was at the 1995 German Masters - Claydon put six runners-up finishes behind him when he won the 1998 BMW International. He was the heaviest player on Tour at that point and last winter he embarked on a diet which cut his weight to around 16 stones. However, his golf suffered to such an extent that he missed 14 cuts in 25 starts. Claydon faces a tough task over the next six days against a field which includes two Ryder Cup players in Steve Richardson and Philip Walton.

Jim Payne, the winner of the 1996 Italian Open, has suffered injury problems and plays at the school for the first time since 1991, the year he so impressed Jack Nicklaus as top Open amateur. Justin Rose, the star of the 1998 Open at Birkdale, is also trying to qualify. He did so last year, but missed out on keeping his card by five places.

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