High-quality Higgins shows he's got the game for Tour return
DAVID HIGGINS brought the Lexus Race to Mount Juliet to a champagne climax, but the classy Waterville professional must settle for crumbs from the European Tour table next season.
The Kerryman's golf was so sublime as he clinched a fourth PGA Irish Order of Merit title, it strongly suggested his game's good enough to bring on Tour, while his desire to play on Europe's biggest stage has never been sharper.
Higgins, 37, flourished under the pressure of Saturday's 18-hole season finale at Mount Juliet, bagging the €4,000 winner's cheque and a €10,000 bonus for topping the season-long Irish championship with a superlative seven-under-par 65.
Yet his prospects of winning back his Tour card were dashed last month when he failed to make it through the first round of Q-School.
While Damien Mooney and David Mortimer, who finished second and third respectively behind him in the Order of Merit, both head for the second stage of European qualifying at Costa Ballena next month, Higgins must scrap for a maximum six Tour invites over the next few weeks.
He's already earned a place at next year's BMW PGA Championship and the '3' Irish Open by winning the Order of Merit, while invitations to four more European Tour events go to the winner of the British and Irish PGA Play-offs at Little Aston in the English West Midlands early next month.
"I missed out at the first stage of Q-School, so I'm kind of in no man's land at present," Higgins admitted. "To be honest, I didn't play that bad at Dundonald Links -- we just got blown out of it.
"My goal was to win this (the Race to Mount Juliet), then do well at the PGA Play-offs and see where we go from there," he added. "I am keen to get back on Tour, but the most important thing is I'm playing well. To me, that's the biggest thing.
"It's just a pity it's the end of the year and I'm not going to more qualifying, but, unfortunately, that's the place I've put myself," said Higgins, who last held full European credentials in 2007, when a mystery liver virus wrecked his season and put his Tour career in stasis.
Yet having rediscovered his 'A' game, Higgins is in a position to grab with both hands any European or Challenge Tour chances which come his way next season.
Higgins finished four ahead of Mooney on Saturday with his cousin, Ted Higgins Jnr, featuring in a six-way tie for third on one-under-par 71. Mooney's 69 propelled him ahead of Mortimer (78) into second place in the Lexus Race to Mount Juliet, with John Kelly (76) fourth and Darren McWilliams (72) fifth in the season-long championship.