The invitations he has been chasing all year have now dried up, leaving Lucas Herbert just two more events in which to secure his European Tour card for 2019, starting this week at the Portugal Masters.
Sitting 103rd in the Race to Dubai standings, Herbert took affiliate membership at the end of last year after finishing tied for seventh at the co-sanctioned Australian PGA Championship and began the new year with a third-place result at the World Super 6 Perth.
That earned him a place in the field for the Oman Open and with guaranteed starts at the British Open, Fiji International and Dunhill Links Championship, the 22-year-old Victorian threw all of his energy and focus into earning full status in Europe.
Top-five finishes at the Sicilian Open and Nordea Masters opened doors to play in Belgium and Prague in the following weeks and with his management company, IMG, seeking invites into other events, Herbert has managed to compile a schedule consisting of 15 tournaments to date. But his maximum of seven invites expires this week at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, meaning any improvement in the Order of Merit could be crucial at season’s end.
“Because this week is my seventh invite I’m not able to receive any more invites, but I’ve got the Dunhill Links Championship off my Australian Order of Merit finish from last year,” Herbert explained.
“They’ll be my last two events in Europe for the year and after that I’m back home and hoping for everyone else to help me out and not go ahead of me on the Order of Merit.
“I’m not sure if I ran top 10 at the Dunhill whether I would get in the week after that. That would be the only way I could get into the event after that, I think. If I can make more than what the 110th position made last year, then I can receive unlimited invites and I think that is around 365,000 Race to Dubai points, so I’d need to earn 40,000 more points.”
Although his body is starting to take its toll from jumping on planes at a moment’s notice and the fatigue is very real, Herbert has chosen to embrace the chaos of an uncertain schedule. At the start of 2018 he was looking at playing in either Canada or China and knows whatever he has to endure, this year will be worth it if he can start 2019 with a more carefully planned calendar.
“I kind of like it because you never quite know where you’re going to go next,” said Herbert, who has played four of the past five tournaments. “It was harder earlier in the year not knowing the events I was playing.
“I’m managed by David Rollo and IMG, so I would speak to him about our chances of getting invites into certain tournaments and his honesty and understanding of the likelihood of getting an invite is really good. You’re just not in a position to be able to say no or not care about playing in an event. It’s hard but I thought if I could tough it out this year and get through then I should be able to handle years when you can plan your schedule a bit better.”
A top-10 result this week in Portugal would likely be enough to earn Herbert the extra Race to Dubai points he requires to receive additional invites, but if the Dunhill Links does prove to be his final tournament in Europe this year he knows he will have sufficient status to return in 2019.
“There are two things going in my favour,” said Herbert, who tees off in the third last group in the opening round. “I’ll probably get 20 starts in Europe next year from what I finish on currently. It’s not like you completely lose your card if you finish 111th. Also, the affiliate [members] inside the top 110 don’t count as part of the 110 so If I didn’t make another dollar for the rest of the season I could go to 116 and still keep my tour card. They’re the two things helping me out a bit.
“I’d love to go and make another 40,000 points this week and not have to worry about it, but I could nearly be OK if I missed the next two cuts as well. I’ve played under that stress all year so it’s not really that much different.”
Herbert is one of seven Australians in the field for the Portugal Masters along with Sam Brazel, Jason Norris, Jason Scrivener, Richard Green, Nick Cullen and Jack Munro with New Zealand to be represented by Ryan Fox and Josh Geary. Green won the fourth installment of the Portugal Masters in 2010 with Scrivener the highest-placed Australian last year in a tie for 29th.
• Currently 15th in the Road to Ras Al Khamiah rankings, Dimitrios Papadatos is the sole Aussie teeing it up on the European Challenge Tour this week at the Hopps Open de Provence in France where a high finish will go a long way to securing his status on the main tour for 2019.