One man’s ceiling is always another man’s floor and so it turned out that one golfer’s stumbling weekend in Spain was another’s worst nightmare.  The happiest man at the Castello Masters on Sunday evening was not tournament winner Sergio Garcia (goodness knows he’s won more important titles than this one), but France’s Francois Delamontagne, that is if your are following this year’s Q School story.

Francois was in 119th position in the Order of Merit at the start of the tournament; that position is known as the First Man Out in the season-long race for a Tour Card.  If he stayed in that position, the Frenchman would have to go to Q School next month.

This season, the top 118 would be getting Tour Cards (that number is made up of 115 regular Tour members and 3 affiliate members who are not eligible for Cards) and Patrik Sjoland was 118th – Last Man In – as the players teed it up last Thursday.  Sjoland’s possible Tour Card was the most vulnerable in this last regular tournament of the season, while Delamontagne had the best chance to drink at the last chance saloon and save his season.

And so it proved that these two men were the centre of Tour Card attention.  Sjoland got a sick feeling when he failed to make the cut last week; he shot two consecutive 71s to miss by two shots.  Delamontagne, however, shot an opening 5 under 66 on day one to show that he meant business.  The difference between the two players was just  €9,266.82; if the Frenchman could finish in the top 40 then he’d leap that dramatic one place in the Order of Merit and send Sjoland to Q School for the fourth year running.

A second round 67 and Delamontagne was home and dry, especially as he was in the running for the title after four holes of round three (he was just five off the lead, for goodness sake!).  Or was his Tour Card safe?  The European Tour is possibly the most competitive of all and a journeyman like Francois is often as likely to start a run of bogeys as he is a run of birdies.  And so it came to pass.  After those first 40 holes, Francois had just one bogey, but then he reverted to type; his final 32 holes contained 11 bogeys and the magical 50th place was only secured by two pars on the final two holes.

All that work and Francois nearly threw it away; one more shot at the Castello Masters and his tied 47th worth €9,600 would have turned into tied 51st and €8,200.  One place difference and Francois Delamontagne would be off to Q School next month while Patrik Sjoland would be staying home.

Such is the final line between a Tour Card and Q School.  Now Sjoland will join 155 others at Q School Final Stage and hope he has a return to form.  I will be there, but before that I will be at Q School Second Stage that starts on 5 November.  

Yes, the annual Q School rollercoaster is about to really begin.  Not many players might look forward to it, but I can’t wait!

2008 Order of Merit Statistics
Patrik Sjoland finished the season 119th on €223,413.01, but must the cut in Spain last week.

Francois Delamontagne finished 118th on €223,746.19 after winning €9,600 at the Castello Masters.  Before the tournament, Delamontagne had just €214,146.19; he eventually moved up one place in the money list by a margin of just €333.18

For more on Ross’ book visit: Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School