DAVID Higgins is the last Irishman standing going into today's penultimate round of European Tour final qualifying, with the Waterville ace bidding for an extra-special early 40th birthday present.
Despite carding a two-over-par 74 at the PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain yesterday, the reigning Irish PGA champion comfortably made the 72-hole cut by seven strokes and starts today tied for 19th place on five-under.
The top 25 players plus ties at the end of tomorrow's sixth and final round will be rewarded with a European Tour card for the 2013 season, while places on the Challenge Tour are also on offer.
Former Irish Amateur champion Higgins, who turns 40 on Sunday, fired halves of 37 on the Stadium Course on day four, with two birdies undone by four bogeys. Argentina's Estanislao Goya and Andy Sullivan of England head the field on 12-under.
But while Higgins made it safely through to the final 36 holes, the five other Irishmen competing in Spain weren't so fortunate as they all crashed out of the qualifying marathon.
Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney came the closest to making the latter stages, but his round of 70 was only good enough for an aggregate of 289, three shots off the two-over cut mark.
One stroke further back was Simon Thornton, his second successive round of 72 leaving him on six-over-par for the tournament, while Florida-based Chris Devlin missed out by five after a disappointing 76.
Alps Tour graduate Gareth Shaw never really recovered from an opening 81 but he did card a round of 68 yesterday to finish on a high. The man from Belfast sunk half-a-dozen birdies to end with a flourish on 12-over.
Like Shaw, Muskerry pro Peter O'Keeffe got off to a dreadful start, and he signed for a 75 yesterday, finishing with a triple-bogey seven, 14-over for the event.