Published: 00:00, 10 November 2015
Matt Ford won the mental battle to retain his European Tour card in the final tournament of the season.
Ford had it all to do at the Hong Kong Open after dropping out of the top 110 in the Race to Dubai.
But he jumped back in with a brilliant seventh place and is planning for another year among golf’s elite.
It came down to such fine margins that eighth place in Hong Kong and he would have been out.
Bearsted man Ford, 37, said: “With the order of merit, I knew the score and roughly what I had to do.
“It wasn’t like the previous few events, I’d now fallen out of it, I knew I didn’t have enough money to start with. I was worried about the order of merit but that was something I’d been thinking about for months.
“I went to Hong Kong and knew I probably needed top 10 or top 20.
“I played nicely and got the job done but it was a mental battle more than anything else.
“The rewards are so high and the lows are so low in that if you don’t get your card you’re either back playing Challenge Tour or lower and the chances of earning an income are just so slim.
“Literally only 10 out of 200 will make a living but on the European Tour I’ve secured my card, I’ve made a pretty good living and if I play better next year you can make a really good living.
“You can’t think about money on the course. But when everything is about the money and your job is about how much you earn to keep your card, it’s natural.
“Look at where I finished in Hong Kong. One shot better is 30-grand more, one shot less is 12-grand less and you lose your card on one shot in one event on one round.
“It’s your whole career for next year so you can’t think about that, otherwise mentally you’d lose it.”
It’s been quite a year for Ford since coming through Qualifying School.
Solid early form kept his prize money ticking over before a stunning performance at the Africa Open saw him finish runner-up.
An £85,000 pay day for second place went a long way towards Ford retaining his card.
He said: “Keeping my card is a bigger achievement than getting it. I guess you’re always going to say that once you’ve got it.
“For people who haven’t got it, maybe they would say it’s a bigger achievement getting it. But once you’ve got it, you want to keep it.
“There’s not many jobs where every year you have to do that to keep your job but then I guess a lot of jobs you could lose at any time. It’s a strange life.
“If you’d told me this time last year I’d be sat here after keeping my card, I’d have said you were loopy.
“I’ve played with Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington and Miguel-Angel Jiminez in competitive rounds – it’s been amazing.”
Ford finished 105th in the Race to Dubai with prize money of 262,333 euros (about £185,000).
He’s back in action in three weeks and thinking about next season.
He said: “Keeping my card has sunk in now. You get so much euphoria, relief, ecstasy for actually achieving it.
“That lasts for a couple of days but it doesn’t take long for your mind to start thinking about next year, what I want to improve on, what tournaments I want to play, what flights I need to book, what kind of things I want to work on in the winter.
“The problem I’ve got now is to decide which tournaments to miss, which is a great position to be in.
“Beforehand, I didn’t know what tournaments I’d get in.
“If I’d not finished in the top 110 I would still have got 15 or so events but I wouldn’t have known which ones, whereas now it’s probably only the majors, WGC events and maybe one or two other events I won’t get in.
“I’d love to play in a major but the focus will be on the European Tour again, trying to finish in that top 60.
“That’ll be a goal and to win a tournament would be great. They’re my two main focuses.”
Ford travelled the world on the tour, spending weeks at a time away from wife Suzie and their two children.
He said: “That’s the hardest and the worst part of my job.
“I’ve played 28 tournaments in the last 10/11 months so you’re away for more than half the time and you are missing a lot with the kids.
“It’s hard for the wife and it’s hard for me being away from them all.
“You do miss them, especially when things aren’t going so well.
“You have times when you’re missing cuts, that’s when you think ‘why am I doing this job, spending three grand a week to not see my family?’
“It is tough but you have to take the positives. I’m going to be home now for three weeks, I’m pretty much off for the whole of December and hopefully they’ll get to come away with me for a few tournaments and hopefully our lifestyle will be better than if I was playing elsewhere.”
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