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Van de Velde trying to secure Tour card

Jean Van de Velde goes into this week's inaugural Seville Open with one last chance to secure a European Tour playing card for the rest of the season.

The Frenchman, always remembered for losing aOpen rather than winning one, is playing the last of seven medical exemption tournaments he has been allowed to enter this year by the tour after surgery last October on a long-term knee injury.

Van de Velde needs only a top 35 finish at the Royal Golf Club, which will host the World Cup in November, and the sum of 7,300 euros ($8,992) to top up his earnings from the five events he managed last year and seven so far in this campaign.

If he reaches that target the 37-year-old will have earned the equivalent of 115th place on last year's money-list, the tour's criterion for keeping his playing rights for 2004.

Otherwise, he will have to rely on invitations and the notoriety he earned in the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie when he lost from what had looked an unassailable position.

"If I don't make it then hopefully I've not made too many enemies over the years and I should get a few invites," Van de Velde said on Wednesday.

"But I want to make the target of 7,300 euros so that I will be able to retain my job properly."

While Van de Velde, with two missed cuts and a best finish of 20th from his six tournaments this season, knows the $180,000 first prize would do the trick he is wary of aiming too high.

Although more surgery to the injured cruciate ligaments in his right knee, originally caused by a skiing accident several years ago, has been largely successful his full tournament fitness is still in question.

"I'm not putting pressure on myself by trying to win because I've only been able to play 11 rounds in the last two years and, while I am at least capable of playing now, the knee is by no means at its best."

The favourite in Seville is Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is seeking back-to-back victories and his third win of the season after a victory in his last event, the Algarve Portuguese Open, two weeks ago.

Jimenez will rubber-stamp his Ryder Cup place and remain top of the European table with a haul of 166,660 points for first place but the 40-year-old was still cautious on Wednesday.

"The Ryder Cup is very far away and you cannot be thinking about something you don't have close enough to touch," he said.

His main competition this week could come from compatriot Ignacio Garrido and Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, who pushed him close two weeks ago at Penina.

With no chief sponsor for the event laid on at short notice in Seville, the European Tour is underwriting the one million euro prize fund.

Preferred-lies will be in operation all week at the course designed by double U.S. Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal because of extensive returfing in preparation for the World Cup.

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