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Higgins leads Irish charge to close in on Tour card

David Higgins produced a stunning second-round performance at the final qualifying school in Spain to shoot up the leaderboard and enhance his prospects of securing a precious European Tour card for next season.

The highly-experienced Irish PGA champion and winner of the Irish Order of Merit fired a six-under-par 64 on Catalunya's Tour course following a one-over 73 on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

His short game was immaculate as he completed a bogey-free round for a 36-hole aggregate of 137 – five-under – putting him in good shape for the remainder of the gruelling six-round test which continues until Thursday.

Higgins, a Q-school veteran, had back-to-back birdies on three and four, a birdie two on the eighth and three more birdies on the homeward half.

He is in joint seventh spot, well inside the top 25 who will secure their Tour cards on Thursday night, and just two strokes off the pace set by Argentinian Estanislao Goya.

Higgins is leading the Irish charge by some way and even at this early stage, it is difficult to envisage Lurgan's Gareth Shaw making progress as he is on 154 after rounds of 81 and 73.

Peter O'Keefe, who came in as a last-minute alternate, started disappointingly with an 81 on the Stadium Course but a 65 on the Tour Course yesterday has given him a glimmer of hope.

Muskerry assistant O'Keefe began with four straight birdies and had three more on the way home in an excellent round. Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney is one stroke ahead of O'Keefe on 145 after posting 73 and 72, while Chris Devlin is on 144. All, with the exception of Higgins, have work to do and even he cannot relax.

The rewards for those who are successful can be enormous and many former European Tour winners such as Nick Dougherty and Paul Broadhurst are among the 156 players in the field and both are struggling.

Irish Independent