Philip Walton hits to the 16th in the first round of the 2011 Irish PGA at Seapoint. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.iePhilip Walton was left treading water in Regional Qualifying for the US Champions Tour when he shot a third round 73 at WoodForest Golf Club in Texas.

The 49-year old Dubiner, who was 32nd at halfway following rounds of 72 and 76, could only move up one place to tied 31st with a 54-hole total of 221.

Needing a top-16 finish to progress to next month’s Finals and keep alive his dreams of competing for in excess of $50m in prize money on the US senior circuit in 2012, Walton will need a round in the 60’s to keep his dream alive.

England’s Barry Lane leads on 203 after stellar rounds of 69, 66 and 68 at the Montgomery course, where he leads by four shots from Dick Mast and Lance Ten Broeck. Mike Harwood is fourth on 208 after a 67 with Spain’s Miguel Martin (71) alone in fifth on 209.

Walton, who was the hero of the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill in New York, will be eligible to play on the European Senior Tour next year.

At a first stage qualifier for the PGA Tour Q-School in Texas, Dungannon’s Fergal Rafferty is two shots inside the top 23 and ties who will progress following Friday’s final round.

The Ulsterman moved up to tied 16th on one under par after carding four birdies and four bogeys in 72 at Lantana Golf Club.