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Russell hoping to move upwards and onwards towards Tour card

If the golfing gods have an ounce of decency, then they'll look down on Raymond Russell this week and guide him safely towards the European Tour.

They have certainly not been kind to him over the past couple of seasons. Having clambered up from the basement, following a serious injury, to reclaim his place at the top table in 2010, the his return to the main circuit was fleeting as a debilitating virus, which left his body "running at 15% of its capability", put him back to square one.

This week, in southern Italy, Russell, pictured, is on the verge of a third coming as he launches his assault in the Challenge Tour's Apulia San Domenico Grand Final. The Scot is currently 22nd in the rankings and needs to move up to 21st place to secure promotion. The leading 20 usually make the step up but Sweden's Magnus Carlsson, who has made the safety zone of the top 115 on the Race to Dubai through his starts on the main tour, will come off the final standings.

Russell has been in this tense position before, of course. Two years ago, he went into the Italian showdown in 21st spot on the money list and hauled himself up into 19th to clinch a European Tour card with just £920 to spare.

Whatever the outcome this week, Russell will still reflect on 2012 with considerable satisfaction. This has been his first full season back in action, having recovered from the ravages of that virus, and a victory in June's Challenge Provincia di Varese, his biggest win since he won the Cannes Open on the main tour 16 years ago, confirmed his recovery.

"To come back and win at this level is very pleasing," said Russell, who has missed

just one cut since his summer success but has not finished higher than 18th in the 11 events that have followed. "It's been consistent but finishing in a tie for 20th each week doesn't get you anywhere. It's okay on the main tour but here you just get trampled over.

"Yes, I would like to have kicked on more after that win but I'm still going into this week with plenty to gain. Play well here and a good season becomes a very good season."

Russell is one of four Scots included in the 45-man field and is joined by Scott Henry and Chris Doak, the duo who have notched the other tartan triumphs on the second-tier circuit this season. Henry claimed a career-changing victory in September's lucrative Kazakhstan Open while Doak landed the Allianz Open de Lyon earlier this month. They are ninth and 10th respectively in the rankings and will be aiming to cement their places in the top 10 to ensure a strong category for next year's European Tour.

Andrew McArthur makes up the Scottish quartet but the 33-year-old, a winner on the Challenge Tour in 2008, will need to pull off an Italian Job of sizeable proportions to hoist himself up from 44th on the money list and into the promotion-winning places.

* Daan Huizing, the young Dutchman who reached No.3 in the world amateur rankings and claimed record-breaking wins in the Lytham Trophy and the St Andrews Links Trophy earlier this season, has turned professional.

The 22-year-old, who has plundered 12 national and international titles over the past two years, won the Lytham Trophy by 11 shots and the St Andrews Trophy by 14 strokes during a sparkling summer that helped him become Europe's No.1 amateur.

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