Alejandro Cañizares is crowned champion as he and Zander Lombard finish top of a list of 27 players to earn their European Tour cards through the final stage of Q-School
After competing through six gruelling rounds at St Lumine Golf Club in Spain, 27 players have made it through the dramatic final stage of Q-School to earn their European Tour cards for the 2018/2019 season.
Cañizares carded the lowest round of the day (a 7-under 64) to tie with South African Zander Lombard, resulting in him claiming the title of Q-School champion as there are no playoffs for the individual title.
"It was difficult for me, it's been a weird two years coming over here and I couldn't be happier," said Cañizares. "My future wife is pregnant and I'm going to be a father soon. There's many good things happening at the moment.
"I've played in three Q-Schools now, it's been a long time that has gone really quickly since I started on the Tour in 2006, and I knew my golf was there it just wasn't happening the last two years. I had a couple of injuries, some personal things and golf wasn't happening.
"And now, all those things are gone, and I can just play and focus on my game and get the confidence back hopefully. I'm over the moon."
Lombard, who finished with a 3-under 68, will be listed as second on the rankings of Q-School graduates.
"It's great having lost my card and now I've regained my rights its awesome," Lombard said. "I shouldn't have been here in the first place, but to come out strong and prove myself to be on the Tour it's really amazing, I don't have words for it right now."
The duo finished one shot ahead of Denmark's Jeff Winther and 25-year-old American Kurt Kitayama, while Romain Langasque earned back his Tour Card with a fifth place finish on 22-under-par.
Niklas Lemke, Clement Sordet and Bernd Rithammer ended in a tie for 6th place on 21-under, while Spain's Ivan Cantero Gutierrez eagled the final hole of the event to share 9th with Anton Karlsson.
2016 Amateur Champion Scott Gregory, who notably struggled to a 92 during the first round of the US Open five months ago, silenced any remaining critics by coming through all three stages of Q-school (one of just seven players to do so) before posting a final round 69 to finish 11th alongside Masahiro Kamawara.
"It takes a lot out of you so I’m just over the moon," Gregory said. "It makes up for a few of the things that I went through this year. I’m immensely proud of myself. I think I’d only been playing for a month after coming back from injury when I went to First Stage.
"It’s been a tough year with injury and I didn’t have my best day at the U.S. Open. I probably came under some unfair criticism so to do this not only proves it to myself but it proves it to them. It keeps a lot of people quiet."
England's Daniel Gavins, who set the early pace during the final stage with a nine-under 62 in round one, finished in a share of 13th with Per Langfors, Nick Cullen, Guido Migliozzi, Deyen Lawson and Louis De Jaeger. De Jaeger was the first person of the day to guarantee their card with a bogey-free final round of 66 to progress from Q-School for the first time in five attempts.
Behind them on the list was three time European Tour winner Marc Warren, who had to head back to Q-School for the first time since winning rookie of the year honours in 2006. Warren birdied his final three holes on Monday to guarantee making the cut and went on to shoot rounds of 66 and 68 to finish in 19th place and secure playing rights for his 14th consecutive season on Tour.
"It is the first time I have been in contention for a card and I really underestimated how tough it is," Warren said. "You have no idea what you need to do and you have try and keep moving forward while trying not to make mistakes at the same time.
"It's not a pleasant way to play golf but obviously there is a reward at the end of it."
Gavin Moynihan, who claimed the GolfSixes title with partner Paul Dunne earlier this year, was part of an eight-man tie for 20th place that included Norweigan amateur Kristoffer Reitan, Filippo Bergamaschi, Kristian Krogh Johannessen, David Borda, Max Schmitt, Ben Evans and Hugo Leon.
But while it was good news for the 27 that earned their cards, it was heartbreak for others. Matteo Mannassero was one of the highest profile names to head back to Q-School, but the four-time European Tour winner failed to make the cut. He was joined by European Tour stalwart Richard Bland, Oliver Wilson, Simon Dyson and Canadian Austin Connelly in making an early exit from the final stage.
Other long-standing European Tour members such as Gregory Bourdy, Marcel Seim, Anders Hansen and Gregory Havret made the cut but failed to retain their cards.
But one of the more agonising stories came earlier in the week from England's Tom Murray. Having missed out on qualifying for his card through the Challenge Tour by only a few hundred euros, Murray started the final stage well with opening rounds of 66 and 70. However, he was then disqualified after it transpired that he had signed for the correct score of 70, but had two of his scores incorrectly written down on the card.
Below is a full list of this year's European Tour Q-School graduates.
|9.||CANTERO GUTIERREZ, Ivan||ESP||-20|
|13.||DE JAGER, Louis||RSA||-18|
|20.||JOHANNESSEN, Kristian Krogh||NOR||-16|
|-||REITAN (AM), Kristoffer||NOR||-16|