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Scots duo are drinking in last-chance saloon

The clubhouse at the Serengeti resort, the venue for this week's South African Open Championship, may not have swing doors, sawdust floors and maudlin' drunks but it will have the feel of a last-chance saloon about it.

And there are a couple of Scots drinking in it.

Craig Lee is one of those at the metaphorical bar. The Stirling man heads into the final regular event of the European Tour season in 116th place on the rankings, with the top 115 to retain playing rights for next year. As a handful of players will come off the official money list because they have not played the minimum number of tournaments, Lee could just be all right anyway but the former Tartan Tour No.1 will not take any chances.

"I can't rely on that; I have to do it myself, said Lee. "It's crunch time and there are a few of us in the same boat. We're all supposed to be these alpha males and not show any weakness but I'm sure, deep down, there will be a lot of nervous bodies out there."

On his last visit to the Rainbow Nation at the start of the year, Lee enjoyed a profitable opening to the campaign. He shared eighth in the Africa Open in January and followed that up with a top 20 in the Joburg Open. He could do with finding another pot of gold this week. From that encouraging opening to the season, Lee found himself slipping slowly down the order of merit but a tie for seventh in July's Irish Open at Portrush thrust him back up the rankings. He has been hovering around the safety line ever since, one week on the right side of it, the other on the wrong side.

Having clambered his way back to the top tier, after a trying rookie season in 2008 which ended with him effectively being relegated three divisions because of the complexities of the ranking system, it would be a shame if this latest flirtation with the elite proved fleeting.

"I've enjoyed it this season and I feel I'm a much better player than I was in 2008," said Lee, who estimates that the running costs of his campaign could be in excess of £80,000. "I've improved so many aspects of my game and if I can just limp across the line I will feel very confident about next season. I'd get into more of the bigger events and could plan a much better schedule."

Peter Whiteford is in a similarly perilous position to Lee at No.113 on the money list while Alastair Forsyth, who began the year with a fifth place in the Africa Open, returns needing a result of an equally lofty nature to haul himself up from 133rd.

"I've had 16 tournaments on the main tour this season and that should have been more than enough to secure my card; I only have myself to blame," he said.

George Murray, Steven O'Hara and Lloyd Saltman would need to conjure up something miraculous while, on the other side of the safety mark, Marc Warren, at No.52 on the money list, will be eager to set the seal on qualification for the season-ending Dubai World Championship.

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