Date: September 24, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Agony, but Herbert seals Euro card

Lucas Herbert played 71 super impressive holes, but fell agonisingly short of victory at the Portugal Masters today.

Herbert, though, achieved his season goal of attaining 2019 European Tour playing rights with a share of second place after a tremendous struggle with eventual champion Tom Lewis.

The Englishman led by one for much of the final round and looked in deep trouble when he blocked his drive on the par-five 17th into water.

But Lewis canned an extraordinary 15m par putt seconds before Herbert’s birdie try curled narrowly around the cup as the status quo was maintained.

Then, pushing for a birdie up the tough closing hole, Herbert rolled his drive into the water left and was ultimately forced into a double-bogey that dropped him back to an even-par 71 and alongside another Englishman, Eddie Pepperell, at 19 under.

Lewis scrambled another grand par up the last, enabling a 22-under-par total, even though the final margin was very misleading.

While a maiden top-level professional win agonisingly eluded Herbert after he led alone or in part after each of the first three rounds, his share of second moved him all the way from No.103 on the Race to Dubai rankings to No.64, guaranteeing his playing rights for next season.

The 22-year-old also sealed a start in the upcoming Dunhill Links Championship where he could realistically push for a top-60 berth that would get him all the way to the lucrative Tour Championship in Dubai in November.

And more good news from the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Club came with West Australian Jason Scrivener closing with a 68 to finish T12 to also secure his 2019 playing rights, moving from No.111 to No.99.

Lewis and Herbert waged a cracking battle back and forward after the Englishman picked up two strokes to join the lead on the second hole.

Some quality iron shots from Pepperell midway through the back nine enabled him to close on the battle, but he couldn’t quite bridge the gap and effectively fell from the race when he couldn’t get up and down for birdie on the par-five 17th.

At the same time, Herbert made a spectacular up and down for par when short-sided right of the par-three 16th. He took relief from the join in recently laid turf, then hit a superb flop wedge to within 3m of the pin before rolling in a putt that generated a huge fist pump as he stayed within one of the lead.

The turning point came on the next, though, when Lewis made light of his penalty drop and then gave his own big fist pump as his incredible par putt tumbled in.

Herbert, who had been forced to lay up when his drive ran a metre through the fairway and into unyielding rough, put his own great long roll on a birdie try from 12m, but it narrowly missed and the hole was effectively “halved” from nowhere.

To his credit after his errant drive up the last, Herbert continued to push for victory and his bold strokes around the green in that effort cost him a better chance at finishing second outright.

“It kind of feels like all of the air has come out of me,” Herbert said.

"It was looking like it could have been a two-shot swing on 17 and then Tom goes and holes that putt and I hit a horrible tee shot down the 18th.

“I can’t be too critical of myself and I have to try to take the positives at the moment, even though it’s not ideal not winning after carrying a lead into the last round. If I keep putting myself here enough times, surely one of them has to work out.

"It’s hard with golf, you don’t win very often. It’s pretty clichéd but you have to try to take the positives.

"I played three really good rounds under pressure when I needed to to get my card, so I’ll try to think about that when I look back at this week.

"The goal at the start of the year was to get a main Tour card and we’ve done that, so that’s a pretty good feeling.

“Moving up the world rankings is obviously the goal … g ive myself the best chance by the end of next year to make the Presidents Cup team. If I can keep doing this I’m not going too far wrong, I hope.”

But for a young man in just his 21st start on the European Tour and playing on affiliate status with invitations and starts earnt by top-10 finishes, it has already been an extraordinary achievement to ensure a full 2019 card.

Remarkably, since his breakout sixth place at the Australian Open in Sydney last year, Herbert has finished seventh at the Australian PGA, eighth in the Singapore Open, third in the World Super 6 Perth, T3 at the Sicilian Open, played in two major championships, finished 5th in the Nordea Masters in Sweden and now T2 in Portugal and take him close to the top 100 in the world rankings.