Paul Broadhurst and Tom Whitehouse were left wondering what might have been after ending up as mere significant also-rans in a keenlycontested climax to the Quinn Direct British Masters.

But a top-ten finish for both Midlanders still left them pocketing substantial cheques to further this season's ambitions.

Whitehouse's biggest payday, of just over £40,000, for his tie in eighth place rocketed him up to 86th on the European Order of Merit - a huge step towards retaining his Tour card.

Broadhurst, despite maintaining his position of eighth in the Order of Merit and his current place in Europe's Ryder Cup squad, is perhaps more interested in the world top 50 spot that would really start opening doors.

The Atherstone man has two more weeks (at the Irish Open starting on Thursday and the following week's BMW Championship at Wentworth) to earn an automatic invite to next month's US Open at Winged Foot, followed by a nostalgic return trip to Hoylake in July when the Open Championship finally goes back to Royal Liverpool. Broadhurst, ranked 55th, says: "Hoylake is the one I really want.

"I was the last to win round there in 1991 in the European Pro Celebrity and it would be nice to go back.

"It's at the back of my mind if I can squeeze back into the top 50 but it's the same with all the targets I have left this year. You can't force it.

"If somebody else plays well and comes past you, there's nothing you can do about that. You've just got to concentrate on your own game.

"I've been paired with the likes of Ian Poulter and Paul Casey this week and I've held my own against players who, three years ago, I was looking up to as I was not in their league."

Broadhurst enjoyed five final-day birdies as he steamed through with a four-under 68, spoiled only by a lone bogey at the eighth.

He had also enjoyed four birdies on Saturday for a 70 scarred only by costly three-putts at the first and the 18th. Yesterday's round started more happily when he knocked a sand wedge stiff to birdie the first.

He then picked up successive shots with an eight-footer at the fifth and a 40-footer from just off the green at ther sixth. Although he

drove in the bunker to drop a shot two holes later, he hit an excellent drive to just off the back of the green at the shortened tenth, chipping to three feet to sink the birdie putt.

Although birdieing the short 12th from five feet to go to eight under, Broadhurst made no more inroads, having to settle for seventh and a cheque for £54,000.

"I was really pleased with the first 12 holes," he said. "Maybe it didn't look as bad as it felt, but from then on, I was just hanging on.

"The only chance I had was when I recovered from a bad drive at 16 and had a three-footer for birdie, but I missed it, then almost missed the one coming back too."

Whitehouse was even better placed after his third round.

On his adopted home course, the young man from Coleshill looked to have put himself right in contention on Saturday lunchtime when, having stormed to the turn in 33 with three birdies, he kept up the pace on the back nine.

Two more followed at the two par-threes, to take him to eight-under within five of the lead. But a near-flawless round, his best over the Brabazon, was wrecked by a double-bogey six at the last.

After finding a fairway bunker with his drive, he had to come out sideways and when his seven-iron approach spun 50 feet back down the slope, he ended up three-putting.

He started badly yesterday, bogeying the 442-yard fourth for the third time this week but Whitehouse responded well with successive threes, thanks to a seven-iron to ten feet at the fifth and a 30-foot putt a hole later, only to drop one again at the eighth.

Unlike most of the field, he laid up but still got his birdie at the shortened tenth, then claimed another at the 14th to go within two shots of Casey and Michael Campbell, who were setting the pace at the time.

"That was the only time I ever really knew how close I'd got," Whitehouse said. "I looked up and saw Casey had gone back to ten-under and I had a putt to go eight and I thought 'Oh, hello'.

"But after a misjudgment at 16, I hit a great second putt which didn't go in and although I put a wedge to 20 feet for a birdie at 17, I then put it in the fairway bunker at 18 again. And, although I hit a great four-iron, the putt just rolled round the hole and it wasn't to be.

"I didn't play all that great but I ground it out and putted my socks off. I've proved to myself I can do it. I've played with world-class players and played maybe four 'world-classish' rounds. If I can get to this position again, maybe I'll handle the last days a bit better. Then, you never know, I might win one."