Slow start threatens Finch’s place among continent’s elite

Richard FinchRichard Finch
Richard Finch
Richard Finch’s European Tour status hangs in the balance after a dreadful start to the Portugal Masters.

The 36-year-old from Hull opened the penultimate tournament of the regular season with a four-over par 75 to leave him needing to go low today just to make the cut.

What Finch desperately needs, though, is a top-five finish.

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Only the leading 110 players on the Race to Dubai standings after next week’s Perth International keep their full playing privileges for 2014.

Finch, after a year in which he has missed 12 cuts in 25 tournaments and finished no higher than 17th, sits 134th on the money list, some 65,000 euros shy of where he needs to be.

That equates to a sixth-place finish at Vilamoura, but given there are 23 players between Finch and Brooks Koepka in 110th, the 84,800 euros for finishing fifth would come in handier for the Yorkshireman.

The winning prize of 330,000 would render the problem redundant altogether, but after a round that included five bogeys and a double bogey on the 18th, that is looking highly unlikely.

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Finch is scheduled to play in Australia next week, when again, he will be looking for at least a top-five finish to have any chance of maintaining the full playing status he has enjoyed for the past nine years.

Malton’s Simon Dyson shot a one-under-par round of 70, while Sheffield’s Danny Willett was a shot better off after a 69.

He is four shots behind seven players who lead the way on six under, after shooting rounds of 65; they are Englishmen David Lynn and Graeme Storm, Jamie Donaldson of Wales, Alvaro Quiros of Spain, Simon Thornton of the Republic of Ireland, Chile’s Felipe Aguilar and Max Kieffer of Germany.

For Quiros it continues his return to form. He won every year on the European Tour from 2006-2011, including in Portugal in 2008, before being plagued by wrist problems that resulted in him undergoing surgery a year ago and missing five months

Harrogate’s John Parry was first reserve yesterday morning having started the week well down the reserve list, and chose not to travel.