JUSTIN ROSE admits that three months ago he was "playing like a muppet." Now he fears no-one.

A big turn around in the self belief which almost deserted him in the slump after his fourth place in the Royal Birkdale Open of 1998 has put the 20-year-old Hampshire golfer in a positive frame of mind for the last two European Tour events of the season.

The trouble is it doesn't look as though he will be able to play in them!

In a case of daylight robbery, Hook-based Rose and another Hampshire hopeful Matt Blackey look like missing out on this week's Turespana Masters and maybe the Italian Open the following week simply because there are not enough daylight hours left to accommodate them in the field.

With autumn drawing in and the days getting shorter, so too are the sizes of the fields for the last European Tour events. The usual 140-strong entries have been reduced to 120 and early this week both Rose and Blackey where on the reserve list with little chance of playing.

It's bitterly frustrating for the two Hampshire players because Rose still needs around £16,000 to keep his European card and Blackey, from Hayling Island, requires £22,000.

"If, by chance, I get in for the Turespana in Madrid, I'll try and win it," says Rose. "I have to aim high just as I did at Tour School last November when I aimed for as high a finish as I could get and I ended up fourth. I believe in thinking positive, my game is pretty solid right. I feel I can reach my goals.

"If the worst comes to the worst and I don't get the chance to make the money I need to keep my card, going back to tour school at San Roque next month won't worry me.

"I have the game to stand up to it, but ideally it's not the situation I wanted because it will put me back to where I was a year ago and I believe I have moved on as a player."

"My game has never been stronger. I have got to the stage where I can start challenging for wins next year."

The turning point to Rose's season which saw him hit a tournament high with joint 11th place and a best-ever cheque of £16,340 at the lucrative BMW International Open, was a switch back to some old irons and Taylor Made's new 300 series steel-shafted driver.

"I'm driving the ball straighter and longer, nearly 300 yards, which is further than I've ever hit it. The only glitch is my putting. I missed a couple of three-footers at the 11th and 12th holes in the BMW which would have sewn up my card for next year. But that's golf.

"There's no secret to putting, nothing anyone can teach you. It's something I've got to work out for myself. I was always a good putter when I was younger. Hopefully the old touch will return."

Rose is like a fish out of water without tournament golf. He says the three-week break between the Belgacom Open on September 24 and the Turespana Masters was bad enough. "I was into a good rhythm and could happily have gone on

"I'd missed just a couple of cuts in nine weeks and was getting stronger all the time. Now this. I'll just have to keep practising at my club at North Hants and work hard at my fitness in the gym."

Blackey admitted that after the Belgacom Open he needed a rest after two months solid on the road. But he says: "After three weeks at home I'm raring to go again. But I was about 20th reserve for the Turespana Masters going into this week and it doesn't look too hopeful.

"I feel much stronger and better as a player, and I wouldn't be as concerned as I used to be about going to Tour School."