Nothing in the cards just yet for Daniel Im

Daniel Im, one of several players in the hunt to earn a card on the European Tour next year, has both a tournament to play and a future to secure.

Daniel Im says as long as his play stays consistent he will not have to worry about where he finishes in the final standings to receive his European PGA playing card. Mark Runnacles / Getty Images
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Daniel Im rolled through the appropriate cliches, as though he had a thesaurus in one hand and a platitude handbook in the other, while standing on the sun-splashed practice range at Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai.

Im, one of several players in the hunt to earn a card on the European Tour next year, has both a tournament to play and a future to secure.

The trick is, when the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final begins on Thursday, he will be juggling both tasks simultaneously.

It is like having one eye on the road ahead and the other on the rear-view mirror to see who might be gaining.

He ranks 13th on the money list for the Challenge Tour, the feeder circuit to the European Tour.

Only the top 15 following Sunday’s final round receive cards for 2014, and history rudely suggests that his fate is anything but certain.

Im, who was born in the United States and played college golf at UCLA, said he is taking it “one shot at a time”, then added a few more well-used phrases before chuckling at the notion of ignoring the stakes.

“That’s the plan, anyway,” said Im, 28. “I’m trying not to think about it.”

Just like the developmental system in the US, the stress is as likely to centre on the guys on the top-15 bubble more than the player who wins the tournament.

Last week in Oman, Im began the week at No 21, finished third and leapt eight spots.

Such is the volatility, even with only 45 players in the field.

Last year, the player who began the week 45th in earnings finished in a tie for second and earned his EuroTour card.

“If I can just keep playing solid golf, the rest will take care of itself,” Im said.

While the Challenge has many players seeking to regain lost cards on the parent circuit, Im is one of eight players in the top 15 who has never made 10 or more starts in a season on the European Tour.

So, as far as raw nerves, he will not be alone.

Al Badia, which signed a three-year deal to host the season finale, represents the tour’s third consecutive first-time venue for players, so geographical uncertainty has complicated the closing stretch, too.

Even the world rankings points on offer for the winner have been increased from 12 to 16.

The purse in the no-cut event is €330,000 (Dh1.67m), third-biggest of the year.

For a brief moment, Im allowed himself to speculate about what the future holds if he makes it to the bright lights of the sport’s second-richest tour.

“More big cities, less suburbs,” he said.

If only there were a map to show the way.

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