Play-off drama earns Ablett his Wentworth place

Lee-on-the-Solent professional James Ablett. Picture: Allan Hutchings (101657-101)
Lee-on-the-Solent professional James Ablett. Picture: Allan Hutchings (101657-101)
Scott Gregory. Picture: Andrew Griffin

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James Ablett admitted to a feeling of relief as he held his nerve to earn a place at Wentworth next season.

The Lee-on-the-Solent professional enjoyed a fine PGA south region campaign, winning the order or merit and the money list.

But he knew he needed a top-10 place in the 25-man event at the PGA play-offs in Antalya, Turkey to secure his place at the BMW PGA Championship – the flagship event on the European Tour which normally attracts Rory McIlroy and the rest of European golf’s top stars.

After 72 holes, Ablett and west region professional Paul Hendriksen were locked together in tied-10th position.

That meant a sudden death play-off and it was the 38-year-old left-hander from Lee who rattled in a birdie at the second extra hole to claim his berth.

Ablett said: ‘There was a feeling of relief afterwards.

‘It feels now that the season hasn’t been wasted.

‘It’s great to win the order of merit or the money list but you want that PGA Championship spot.

‘It’s all about getting that place at Wentworth but, hopefully, I should get a few Challenge Tour spots as well.’

Ablett certainly had his moments of thinking his chance had slipped away from him during the course of the 72-hole tournament.

In horrible weather conditions over the first two days, Ablett posted rounds of 72 and 73 to stand at three over par for the tournament.

He got himself right in the mix as the sun came back out on day three with a one-under-par round of 70.

But a final round of 72 left him fearing the worst.

He said: ‘For the first two days, the weather was terrible.

‘We had a two-hour rain delay in the first round and then the next day, it was horrendous.

‘There was just a massive deluge – it could have put out the Towering Inferno.

‘But I was around ninth, 10th and 11th all the way through the tournament so I knew it was going to be tight.

‘I played nicely on the third day when the sun came out and shot one under.

‘I ended up shooting one over in the final round and it was just good enough for tied 10th.

‘Going into the play-off, you try not to make a mistake but you also think a birdie is going to win it.

‘You don’t focus on the other guy. You just have to hit your shot and if you give yourself a decent chance, try to take it.

‘At the first extra hole, I had a tap-in for par but he had a 25-footer for a birdie and you are thinking “this is it – I’m not going to Wentworth”.

‘But he left it a fraction short.

‘On the next, I was on the back edge of the green but I hit it perfectly and I knew about four feet from the hole that it was in.

‘I knew I was going to Wentworth.’

Ablett, who previously played at Wentworth in 2009 but has since had near-misses, admitted he felt sympathy for his opponent.

He said: ‘As I went to pick the ball out of the hole, I felt really sorry for Paul.

‘I knew how gutted he must be because I was 11th in 2011 and missed out by a shot.

‘I knew how he was feeling but there’s not a lot you can say to him.’