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Sam Torrance in search of Champions Tour card

Sam Torrance began his quest in Florida yesterday to play on the US Champions’ Tour next season. The Scot was one of 110 50-something professionals at Eagle Trace, hoping to earn one of just seven full seniors exemptions which will be awarded for 2004 after Friday’s final round.

An additional eight golfers will receive partial playing rights, limited to events which don’t attract the strongest fields. Although Torrance, who celebrated his 50th birthday in August, is an established winner in Europe, his successes at home meant nothing in terms of eligibility in the States.

The former Ryder Cup captain played two American events this autumn on sponsors’ exemptions, finishing fourth at the Constellation Energy Classic in Baltimore. However, the only way he was going to earn his card was by going to qualifying school.

Torrance got off to an encouraging start, finishing fourth in last month’s first-stage qualifier at Disney’s Magnolia course. "It’s fantastic," Torrance said. "I love Europe - it’s my home - but it’s time to come over here. The courses are great, the sun is on your back every week. This is where I want to be."

Bob Bailey and Ed Sabo set the early pace in the first round at Eagle Trace on three under par after nine holes.

Holders the United States are determined to win this week’s Presidents Cup against the Internationals on behalf of their non-playing captain Jack Nicklaus. The US have won three of the four Ryder Cup-style events, but were crushed by the Internationals (Rest of World minus Europe) in Australia five years ago when Nicklaus made his debut as skipper.

The event starts tomorrow at the Fancourt’s Links course.

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