There was a mixed bag from Irish hopefuls David Higgins and Philip Walton as the European Tour Qualifying School finals continued to produce its share of heart-warming comeback stories at San Roque.
While Higgins did his chances of retaining his card no harm by moving up to joint 21st thanks to a two-under-par 70, Walton’s hopes dwindled with a 73 that leaves him tied for 93rd place on five-over-par and 15 shots behind leader Carlos Rodiles of Spain.
The top 30 and ties after six rounds will earn their playing privileges for 2007 and Marbella native Rodiles looks certain to take on of those berths after an outward half of 28 helped him card a sparkling eight-under-par 64 on the New Course.
As benign weather conditions frustrated the 78 players who had completed their second rounds in high winds on Saturday, Rodiles took full advantage to move two shots clear of Norway’s Eirik Tage Johansen and England’s Warren Bennett on 10 under par.
The six-round finals have been disrupted by the closure of the Old Course until today's third round, forcing officials to play the first two rounds over four days on the New Course.
"It was always going to happen that one of the sides (of the draw) was going to have an advantage. I am lucky that it was going to be my side. It’s hard to say that I feel sorry for the other guys because this is war this week," Rodiles said after a round that featured nine birdies, including six in a row on the back New Course’s back nine. "You want to win at all costs but it very unfair to be honest.”
Rodiles has had his own share of bad luck since he was beaten in a play-off for the Volvo Masters at neighbouring Valderrama in 2003, losing his card in 2005 after a nightmare year both on and off the course.
"My mum had breast cancer and my parents split after 25 years. Plus I had a child but my wife almost miscarried and was in the hospital for a couple of months," Rodiles explained. "All of this happened within a couple of months so my mind wasn’t on the golf.”
Higgins felt he should have taken even more advantage of the windless conditions but still declared himself happy with a round that featured an eagle, three birdies and three bogeys.
"Today was a day when I should have got to four or five under," Higgins said. "I didn't quite do it, but I did okay."
Walton birdied two of the par fives but dropped three shots to par and missed a 12-inch putt in a 73 that leaves him with work to do to make the 72 hole cut for the top 70 and ties.
"I played pretty mediocre stuff today really," the 1995 Ryder Cup hero confessed. "I am going to have to make a few strides forward tomorrow. Nothing is really happening to be honest to you. I played well in that second stage and I just haven't really fired yet."