O'Hara closes on leaders in battle to retain place on European Tour

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The Independent Online

Scotland's Steven O'Hara learned from his mistakes to improve his chances of retaining his European Tour card with a first-round 67 in the Madrid Open here yesterday.

O'Hara is 120th on the Order of Merit with only the top 115 after the Mallorca Classic on 28 October keeping their playing privileges next season. With only two counting events remaining after this week the pressure is on, but O'Hara is trying to put that to the back of his mind after a costly final round in the Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday.

"I was 32nd after three rounds and started trying to work out what I had to do to keep my card," he explained, after ending the day two behind Argentine leader Daniel Vancsik.

"I worked out that if I shot level par in the last round that would be enough but I shot 76 just because I was thinking about that too much. I'm better just trying to not think about it and play my own game.

"Of course it's important to keep my card but there are a lot of other guys in a similar position to me so I've just got to get on with it. I'm just trying to concentrate on this tournament and finish as high as I can; if it's enough, it's enough."

The 27-year-old from Glasgow enjoyed a superb amateur career and played on the victorious Walker Cup side in 2001 which also featured tour winners Nick Dougherty, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Marc Warren, but has never finished higher than 70th on the money list.

Vancsik, who won the Madeira Island Open in March but missed the cut in 12 of the next 14 events, carded six birdies and an eagle to establish a course-record 65 and lead by one shot from Portugal's Jose-Filipe Lima.

"It's the best score I've had since Madeira, I've been playing great for the last four or five weeks but just not scoring," said the 30-year-old. "I feel good with my swing again. I've changed parts of it throughout the year and now it is starting to be strong again. Today was a great start."

Teenager Rory McIlroy could only manage a one-over-par 73 with 17 pars and one bogey, but was not too disheartened.

"I hit a lot of fairways and greens so I am happy enough, hopefully I can come out tomorrow and shoot something a bit better," said the 18-year-old from Northern Ireland, who virtually secured his card for next season by finishing third on Sunday in his second event as a professional.

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