NEWPORT’S Phillip Price will head to Sunningdale today for The Open Championship qualifying event full of confidence after a fine finish at the Saab Wales Open.

The 44-year-old Ryder Cup veteran was in great form at the Celtic Manor as he finished in a tie for 12th place on three under par, just six shots behind winner Alexander Noren.

It’s a far cry from last year when Price admits he nearly gave up the game he loves after hanging onto his European Tour card by the skin of his teeth.

“I’m delighted. The progress I’ve made over the last six months has been huge,” he said ahead of the tough 36-hole qualifying event today.

“My confidence is high and I really want to play in The Open.

“I’m highly motivated and I think I’ve got a good chance to make it for the first time since Hoylake (in 2006).”

Price, a hero for Europe in the 2002 Ryder Cup, admits he does miss playing at the top tournaments.

“When you’re top 50 in the world you have a lovely schedule, playing the best of America and Europe, and if you’re not you have to do the long haul,” he said.

“I think keeping my card last year was my greatest achievement because I was so bad.

“I just wasn’t doing what I had to do,” he added.

“You need to do the long-haul travel and I just got to the point where I didn’t want to do it.

“I probably didn’t think it would be as costly as it nearly was.

“I thought I could just swan around and I got my fingers burned.”

Did he take golf for granted? “I did. I’ve been reasonably successful and I didn’t work hard enough.

“It got to the point where I had to do something about it or just give it up and do something else. I said many times ‘I can’t do this any more’, but when it was nearly taken away I realised that this is something I love to do and days like today justify that decision.”

Price has even sought the help of a psychologist to turn his game around, and it seems to be working.

“I’ve been working on the mental side of my game. I see a guy called Alan Fine and we made a plan of what I had to do and I’ve seen good results from it,” he explained.

“I used to dwell on it every time I played poorly, but when that happens now I’m not allowed to think about retiring.

“I’m fit enough, there’s no physical problem and it’s just about building my confidence.

“I’ve known him for 20 years and we speak on the phone all the time. He gives me a dressing-down.

“I’m looking forward and not backward and anything I get at this time of my life is a big bonus.”