By Brian Keogh
Des Smyth took a giant step towards saving his Champions Tour season in the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
The Drogheda veteran, 54, closed with a 73 to share of fourth place behind winner Gil Morgan.
Without a US win for two years, Smyth was disappointed to finish six shots behind after holding a share of the lead with a round to go.
But he was looking on the bright side after jumping six places to 31st on the money list thanks to a cheque for $98,666 (€72,500) - the biggest of a rollercoaster season.
Smyth said: "I am disappointed in one sense, but I am happy that I had my best cheque of the year and I have taken the heat out of the season.
"I was dwindling down at 37th in the rankings and that wasn't a good place for me.
"I was looking for a bit more but nothing happened. I played okay but the golf course was tricky and I didn't putt very well.
"I just never got going in the last round so it was a bit of a struggle in the end."
With earnings so far this term of $460,748 (€338,586), Smyth's goal is to finish in the top 30 who will be fully exempt next year and also qualify October's €1.8 million Charles Schwab Cup.
He added: "That is my target now and I only have to move up a few spots now to make the Charles Schwab Cup. If you get into that event you feel that your season has been a reasonable success.
"Overall it was a move forward and my game is starting to come around and move forward each week."
Smyth flew home yesterday but plans to fly back to the US next week to play the last five events and consolidate his playing rights for next year.
He said: "It is a busy end to the season. I was hoping to have this month off but I have to stay out on tour. It has been a tough year for me overall, I have to say."