FORMER European Tour professional Peter Whiteford admits he is thrilled to be back mixing it with the big guns after securing a spot at this week’s Scottish Open at the qualifying event at Longniddry at the weekend.

The 37-year-old was a regular on the European Tour for five years, holding a full card from 2010 until the end of 2014, but health problems, most significantly arthritis in both his hips, has resulted in him being little more than an occasional golfer these days.

The Linlithgow player has, he reckons, played less than ten times this year and so went into the weekend’s Scottish Open Qualifier in East Lothian somewhat unsure of what to expect.

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However, a level par first round was followed by a second round of -3 to tie for third place and secure one of the four qualifying spots for next week’s main event in Gullane.

His display was a perfect illustration that while form may be temporary, class is most certainly permanent but his lack of practice did, he admits show at times.

“I can still hit the ball – I just don’t so it as often now," he said.

"My shot at the last was a pretty poor shot under pressure but that’s what happens when you’ve not been playing. But my short game held up so I was delighted about that.

"It’s your half shots – your three-quarter eight iron and your distance control that goes. It’s the wee shots – anyone can thump balls in the net and hit full shots but it’s the shots off the side, the touch shots that go, and if it’s one shot a round you drop, that’s four shots a tournament and at the highest level, you can’t afford that.”

The arthritis in his hips has left him unable to practice as he would like – and as he knows is necessary to be a success on the European Tour – but there are moments when he ponders trying to make a return to the Tour.

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“I’d have loved to have kept playing and there’s times I have sleepless nights when I wonder if I should give it a go again but I know that it’s not a case of 18 holes a day, it’s the practice you have to put in and the hours you put in 6 days a week," he said.

"It got to the stage where I knew I wasn’t pegging it up to win it so it was a bit of a waste of time. So this is going to be a bit of a bonus week for me at Gullane.”

Whiteford is no stranger to being in contention at the Scottish Open having led the tournament in 2011 at Castle Stuart when the torrential rains came and the tournament was temporarily halted.

However, when play restarted, Whiteford fell away and missed out on what would have been a spectacular victory.

“I was praying for the rain to carry on but it stopped," he said of the event seven years ago.

"That week, I was bad mentally to be honest.

"When we stopped, I thought I’d pretty much done it and then we restarted and I wasn’t there mentally. But that was years ago so I’m just happy to be back there this year.

"And so whether I play good, bad or awful, it doesn’t quite have the importance that it used to.”