WHEN you’re trying to hold on to your European Tour playing privileges in the very last event of the season, you need the kind of sturdy constitution that got Sir Ranulph Fiennes through some of his more gobsmacking feats of endurance.

It’s a good job David Drysdale is made of stern stuff, then. “There’s no point getting nervous about it,” said the Scot ahead of a potentially nail-nibbling, stomach-churning, nerve-jangling week at the AVIV Dubai Championship. “You just have to be determined, get in the zone and grind something out. Some thrive under this pressure, others don’t. When my back has been against the wall down the years, I’ve managed to get myself out of it.”

A mainstay of the European circuit for the last 20 years, Drysdale, not for the first time in his long career, needs to pull something out of the hat over the next few days to hold on to his full playing rights.

Prior to teeing-up in today’s opening round in Dubai, Drysdale was 123rd on the tour’s rankings, one spot outside the top 122 who safeguard their cards.

It’s not quite Custer’s Last Stand, of course. If Drysdale doesn’t haul himself up the order, the 46-year-old will still have some kind of category for next season – a Covid-induced ‘safety net’ was brought in by officials during the palaver of the pandemic – but with the rebranded European Tour set for a new, lucrative era in 2022, Drysdale doesn’t want to be on the outside peering in.

“That’s somewhere I don’t want to be,” he said. “Yes, I’d still get plenty of events but I’d not get any of the big ones in the Middle East or the PGA at Wentworth and the Scottish Open would be very hard to get into. So I just need to get the job done this week.”

The benefits of a category that gains you entry into the showpiece occasions can be highlighted by a keek at Drydale’s results this year. A fifth-place finish in the relatively run-of-the-mill Kenyan Classic earned him £29,000. A share of 35th in the big-money Rolex Series event in Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, was worth £38,500. You really can win a watch in those cash-sodden extravaganzas.

“I just need to pull the finger out because this is the last throw of the dice,” he added.

Back in 2014, Drysdale went to the closing event in Australia needing a big result to keep his card and birdied his last hole with a joyous final flourish to share fourth. He doesn’t quite need that kind of miracle this week but he certainly wouldn’t say no to a repeat performance.

“I’ve been here before and I know what it’s about,” added the two-time Challenge Tour winner. “You can’t guarantee you’ll do it again but you can certainly feed off the memories of those moments. I’ve had a strange year. I’ve made plenty of cuts and had opportunities to wrap this all up before now but I’ve just not had four good enough rounds

“I’m not making excuses but I just haven’t enjoyed the last year. With Covid, it’s been a year of hassle. Travel has been a ball ache, you’ve got all the testing and the fear of being positive when you’re away and getting locked up in a hotel for two weeks in another country. I’d go insane if I had to do that.”

Having clocked up 542 European Tour events, Drysdale is still searching for that elusive first win. He’s been runner-up four times, with the most recent scunneration coming in 2020 when he lost out on the Qatar Masters title to Jorge Campillo in a five-hole play-off.

“I’d hit good shot after good shot in that play-off but Jorge holed everything to keep himself in it and the b****** just wouldn’t go away,” he said with a wry chuckle.

Drysdale may be at the wrong end of the rankings just now but the lofty goals remain. “You never lose the ambitions,” he declared with defiant purpose. “That’s why I still play and the plan is still to win because after all this time on tour, it would be annoying not to. I still feel I have a game which suits certain venues but it’s getting harder and harder trying to keep up with all the young guys who blast it miles past me. But hopefully there’s plenty of life left in the old dog yet.”