Walton climbing hill towards treasured card

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The Independent Online

Philip Walton, match-winning hero of the 1995 Ryder Cup, avoided an early exit from the European Tour qualifying school with a brave 65 here yesterday. Lying in 119th place after three rounds and aware that only the leading 75 and ties went through to the final 36 holes, the 39-year-old Irishman jumped to 56th, surviving by two strokes.

"Just what the doctor ord-ered – I had to shoot low," said Walton, who is making a third attempt to return to the circuit. Only the top 35 tomorrow evening win cards for next season, and for the last two years he finished poorly. But thinking positively, he added: "It would be nice to have a couple more rounds like that and get a good card. There's a lot of good golf left in me."

He birdied four of the first six holes, made a 25-footer on the ninth to turn in 31 and added birdies at the 13th and 14th. But at one under par he is still 13 adrift of the new joint leaders, David Park of Wales and Ian Hutchings from South Africa, who both returned 65 at the far tougher San Roque.

Park, the 27-year-old from Hereford, took part in a six-hole play-off on his debut two years ago and won the European Grand Prix a week later at Slaley Hall. Last October he took part in the Alfred Dunhill Cup semi-finals at St Andrews, but back and wrist injuries have left him in 135th place on the Order of Merit .

Cambridge's Russell Claydon, winner of the BMW International in 1998, failed to come through last year but is lying joint third on 11 under. Steve Richardson and Paul Broadhurst, the other two Ryder Cup men, are tied for 19th on five under, and 19-year-old Liverpudlian Nick Dough-erty, a star in the Walker Cup win in America in August, is 14th on six under after a 71. He improved to eight under but a double-bogey at the 526-yard fifth, his 14th hole of the day.