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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 November 2006, 17:54 GMT
Pilkington excited by Tour return
Mark Pilkington
Pilkington will be competing against the world's best in China this week
Welshman Mark Pilkington says he is relishing returning to the European Tour after a three-year absence.

The 28-year-old from Nefyn won the right to compete against Europe's elite golfers next season by topping this year's feeder Challenge Tour rankings.

And Pilkington's win also earned him an invitation to play at this week's Champions Tournament in Shanghai.

"With the likes of Tiger Woods playing it'll be a fantastic experience," Pilkington told BBC Wales Sport.

The $5m tournament, dubbed the "Asian major", heralds the beginning of the 2007 European Tour - just 11 days after last season's final tournament.

Ten of the world's top 20 players, including the top two in Woods and Jim Furyk, will be in the 74-man field in China.

I've learned to be a lot more patient and it's paid off this year

Mark Pilkington

Pilkington lost his European Tour card at the end of the 2003 season, but he regained his playing privileges on his third attempt thanks to a storming finish on the Challenge Tour

His victory at the Kazakhstan Open in October - the tour's most lucrative event - ensured his place among the top 20 who qualify automatically for the main tour.

A runner's-up cheque at the final tournament of the season then lifted him to the top of the Order of Merit.

He said: "It's been quite a long year but it's been successful. I'm really looking forward to playing on the European Tour having got my card.

"The victory in Kazakhstan was my first professional win, which is obviously a huge personal achievement.

"Throughout the season my goal was just to get my card, but when I won in Kazakhstan, I moved up the rankings and winning the Order of Merit became a possibility."

606 DEBATE: Who will win in Shanghai?

Pilkington made the halfway cut in only 15 of the 32 events he played when he last competed on the European Tour.

He says the past three years on the Challenge Tour have taught him some valuable lessons, giving him the confidence to believe he can be far more competitive this time around.

"The last time I was on the tour, I found it was easy to start trying too hard when things weren't going well," he said.

"Patience is so important in this game. I think I've learned to be a lot more patient and it's paid off this year.

"If I can take that on to the main tour, hopefully good things will happen.

"You've got the superstars on the European Tour - the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington - but the standard on the Challenge Tour this year has been great.

"Hopefully it will prove to be good preparation for the European Tour.

"My main aim is to enjoy it and play as consistent as I have this year, but if I could win again, that would be something very special."



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