It’s a crucial stage of the 2017 year for our top players, as we move towards the final stages of the European, Japan and LPGA Tour seasons, and as Q Schools in Japan and Europe move towards their respective climaxes.

Josh Geary is through to final stage European Tour Q School, and now faces a marathon 108 holes in Spain to try and secure on of the 25 cards on offer.  Brad Shilton, Gareth Paddison, Tae Koh and Harry Bateman are in the penultimate stage of Japan Tour qualifying.

Ryan Fox is in South Africa for the second last event on the European Tour this year, and Michael Hendry tees it up again in one of the most prestigious events on the Japan circuit, the Taiheiyo Masters.  Lydia Ko is not playing this week, but Danny Lee and Tim Wilkinson are both back in action in Mexico in the latest PGA Tour event.

European Q School

Josh Geary has made it comfortably through to the final stage of European Tour Q School, finishing T10 on -9 at the Las Colinas venue.  Luke Toomey made a late surge in the last round here with a 67, but couldn’t break into qualifying spot territory, finishing T38 on -1.  Mathew Perry also came close at Panoramica, finishing T31 on -5 at a low scoring venue.

Geary now has to refocus for the 108 holes (with a four round cut) of the final stage at the Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona, Spain, against a field of 156, many of whom are current or recent European Tour players.  Also in the field through the Q School route are 2015 NZ PGA champion Matthew Millar and 2014 NZ Open champion Dimitrios Papadatos.  They will all be battling for the 25 cards available.  However, there is a Plan B: those finishing outside the Top 25 will have some sort of status on the European Challenge Tour (and potentially on the Tour itself if they make the cut) for 2018.  This offers another pathway to pick up a main Tour card, as Ryan Fox did in 2016.

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European Tour

Ryan Fox is in Sun City, South Africa, for the Nedbank Challenge hosted by Gary Player, appropriately at the Gary Player Country Club.  Some players honoured their 82 year old host, well known for his fitness regime, by “planking”.  They might have done better to ask for some bunker playing tips from the old master, a renowned magician from the sand who has written a book on the subject.

The course plays to a mammoth 7,162 metres, but because of the altitude probably about 10% shorter in sea level terms.  The shortest of the par 3s is a mere 193 metres…

Tommy Fleetwood has the chance to wrap up the Race to Dubai before that concludes next week, but he will have plenty of quality opposition, including locals Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, to contend with.

Ryan Fox is playing alongside Chris Wood (England) and Joost Luiten (Netherlands) in Round 1.   

Coverage is available on SSP2 from 8.00pm tonight, with Ryan teeing off at 8.44pm NZ time.

Japan Tour

This week features the Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters at one of Japan’s most famous courses, the Gotemba Course at the Taiheiyo Country Club in Shizuoka, which plays to 6,500 metres, par 72.

Previous winners include Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Darren Clarke, Gene Littler, Graham Marsh and Lee Westwood, and in more recent times Brendan Jones and Hideki Matsuyama.  A very good trophy for Michael Hendry to get his name on, and if he can get the putter working this week he would have every show.

Meanwhile, four New Zealanders are battling it out at Q School, with Gareth Paddison well in contention here with a 69 & 66 after the first two rounds.  There is still a final stage to be faced by those making it through the Stage 3 hurdle.

PGA Tour

The Tour moves to Mexico this week for the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, being played at the El Camaleon GC.  Danny Lee and Tim Wilkinson are in this, Wilkinson through Monday qualifying, when he shot a 67 to get into the main event.

Both have points to prove at El Camaleon: Danny had the first of his 2017 season injury withdrawals here after opening with a 71 & 66; Wilkinson missed the cut last year.

Other News

The Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island in China is already underway, with Lydia sitting this one out, as she has in previous years.  She will be back in Florida preparing for next week’s CME Group Tour Championship.

Cathryn Bristow played in the European Ladies Tour event in Abu Dhabi last week, the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, at the Saadiyat Beach golf Club, but missed the cut by a single shot after shooting even par through 36 holes.  The tournament was taken out by 19 year old Aditi Ashok of India, on -18 for the four rounds.

Fraser Wilkin will be the sole NZ player in the current China Tour event, the Jiangsu Open in Taizhou, being played at the JiangSu Yunhai Wetlands Country Club.  He should be feeling positive about his chances after his T4 result last week in Hong Kong.