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Three former Ryder Cup players at Q-School

Former Ryder Cup star Paul Broadhurst is fighting for his future this week as he returns to the European Tour qualifying school for the first time since turning professional in 1988.

Broadhurst has won over £2million and is holder of both the lowest round ever at the Open and the only perfect record in European Ryder Cup history.

But a second successive injury-hit season, which saw him finish only 157th on the Order of Merit, has forced Broadhurst back to the dreaded qualifying school.

The 35-year-old from Warwickshire is among 168 players trying for the last 35 places on next year's circuit - and he is not the only Ryder Cup player involved in the six-round ordeal.

Hampshire's Steve Richardson, a team-mate of Broadhurst's at Kiawah Island in 1991, is at the school for the fourth year running, while 1995 hero Philip Walton is back with unhappy memories of last year's event.

Two over par after five rounds and needing a 71 to regain his place on the circuit the Irishman slumped to a 77.

On the eve of the marathon Broadhurst, a former Benson and Hedges International and French Open champion, said: "Six or seven weeks ago I probably would not have come here because I was struggling so much.

"But I've started playing better lately and I can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

"You've got to treat this like a normal tournament. It's the only way really. But it's been on my mind all season really."

As 19-year-old Liverpudlian Nick Dougherty, the Walker Cup star who has already come through eight rounds of pre-qualifying, commented: "It's so important - it's the next year of my life which is being decided here."

Prior to this year, Broadhurst had been outside Europe's top 50 only once, but in Dubai last season he hit a 50-yard shot from rough that hurt his right wrist so much that he had to pull out straightaway.

It was the last shot he hit all year. What was originally thought to be ligament damage requiring six weeks off, turned out to be a hairline fracture.

Broadhurst had surgery in August and was given a medical exemption for the 2001 season.

But after just four tournaments he developed a problem with the thumb on his left hand which also needed an operation. Out for three months because of that, he has not had a single top-20 finish since and so finds himself at crisis point.

If he fails to be among the top 35 next Monday, Broadhurst will be reliant largely on invitations for his chance to play next year.

"I suppose if things don't work out I will find out how much the Ryder Cup was worth. But you are soon forgotten and I don't want to rely on invites. I don't want to get to that stage. You can never be sure you will get them."

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