Steve Richardson will give it one more year to try and rescue his European Tour Card.

After finishing three places from last at Final Tour School last week, the former Ryder Cup ace fears he may have reached the point of no return as a top tournament player.

"I've got one more year's exemption through to Tour School and I don't want to waste it," said the man from Lee-on-the-Solent, "but if my game is no better in a year's time, I will have to look outside golf.

"I haven't thought what the alternatives are because I am still trying to be single-minded about my golf. All I can say is I'm finding harder every year to get back to where I used to be.

"In recent years I've done ok on the practice range but I haven't been able to take it on to the golf course."

The three-times winner on the European Tour explains: "In the heat of competition I don't hit the ball well off the tee. Even my irons, certainly up to six iron, have become a problem.

"I used to practise well then struggle when it came to the heat of competition but now I'm not even hitting the ball that well on the practice ground. Once upon a time when I played around Lee with my mates I used to burn it up, but not so much these days."

The man who finished second to Seve Ballesteros in the European order of Merit in 1991 says he will sit down through the winter and draw up a schedule which he hopes might ease him back into tournament golf.

"I'll play more on the South Region where I got a second place through the summer and broke a course record and perhaps I'll

play a few more Hampshire PGA events, too. I'll try and start competing again and if I do, then I'll maybe step up and do some EuroProTour events later in the season.

As a former winner he is still exempt for two events on the main European Tour, the Portuguese Open and the German Masters, but Richardson is even unsure whether to play them in 2003. "It would be a big step up to the kind of schedule I'm contemplating. I'll have to wait and see how I'm playing at the time."

Richardson, who is now 36, doesn't see the point of working even harder on the practice ground with his coach Jason Banting. He says: "The more I practise, the worse I seem to get. So one resolution for next year will not be to practise so much and maybe play a bit more."

Richardson's fears for his future are compounded by the sight of Seve Ballesteros going down the same dark road. "He can't get the glory days back either," says Richardson. "As you get older your body changes and so does your technique. People say to me go back to your old swing, but I have tried that countless times and I can't.

"I have had to make changes, some for the better, but a few bad things that I could once get away with when I was younger have become demons."

Richardson, son of former Lee club professional John Richardson who retired last year, admits that switching from tournament golf to a club job is something he may have to consider.

Meanwhile he's become more of a domestic animal these days at his lovely home on Hayling Island. Wife Helen has just presented him with his second daughter, Anna. His first-born Emily is now five and he smiles: "I'm on the school run now. It's one of the highlights of my day!"