Sam Walker said he knows The Belfry like the back of his hand - and he was made to prove it in seriously fading light on the Brabazon Course last night as he moved into serious contention for the Quinn Direct British Masters.

The Birmingham golfer made light of some grim weather, which even brought a 40-minute rain delay, as he used his local knowledge of the Brabazon to fire a five-under 67.

The highlight was holing his 135-yard nine iron at the fifth to leave him in a five-man tie for third place on six under, just a shot behind halfway leaders Mark Foster and Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen.

And, apart from leaving him on the same mark as two Ryder Cup men Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, it also now earns Walker the privilege of playing in some pretty prestigious company at 2pm alongside the great Colin Montgomerie.

That will be exactly an hour before his beloved Birmingham City run out at Anfield. But Walker admits he will be totally consumed with events here in the Midlands as he looks to stay as well focused as he was yesterday in such trying conditions.

The rain break which delayed Walker on the third tee, having played 11 holes, caused by a late afternoon Midlands monsoon, did not have a great effect on his game, disrupting the flow that had seen him card five birdies on The Belfry's back nine.

Having been paired in the day's final group to tee off at the 10th, it also led to him having to play his final hole, the ninth, in what can best be described as twilight.

Almost simultaneously, over on the 18th, fellow Midlander Robert Rock, one of his main rivals on the Order of Merit to retain their card, was also finishing off, needing a birdie to make

the cut. And he inquired about the chance of coming back this morning to take on such an important putt in a decent light. He missed it, failing to make it through by just a shot. But, seconds later, Walker holed his putt. And his relieved smile said everything about how pleased he was to have stayed out there.

"We had the choice on the ninth tee of whether to stay out there or come back, but I thought I'd rather take the chance of scraping a par and having a lie-in.

"I'd just made bogey at the eighth but I was still a bit hyper and still in my rhythm, and I just thought it would be best to keep going.

"And, although I thought I'd got a five iron left, my caddie Gavin Abson said it was a six, he was right, I put it close and holed the putt."

The most impressive thing about Walker's efforts was that for most of the year he has targeted this event, on a course he knows so well, as his best chance of keeping his card. And, after a stumbling start on the first day, when he slumped to three over after eight holes, Walker really has so far not just talked the talk, but walked the walk.

"I said I thought I could go close this week and now the leaderboard shows it.

"Everything's in shape in my game to go out and have a go. And, although the conditions were very tough, I've proved to myself and everybody that I can still play.

"I had a brilliant start to the day. I birdied 10, 12 and 13, then stupidly three putted from six feet at the par three. But I birdied the next, then made an up and down, got a great birdie at 17 and, although I bogeyed 18, it was playing like a par five on a day like this and was really tough.

"I just wish the rain break had been a bit earlier as we had to play through some really bad stuff."

Needing a top-10 finish to keep his tour card for 2008, Walker, who currently stands 128th on the money list, knows he can sort out next year's schedule all in one go this weekend - and earn some serious money in the process.

And he particularly has one eye on getting past the eighth place enjoyed by his cousin Tom Whitehouse on this same course 16 months ago.

"That would be good," he said. "But there's no rivalry between us. It would just be nice for my sponsors."

On a day when neely turned pro Rory McIlroy sneaked into the weekend by just a shot, Whitehouse crashed to a 76, to miss the cut by four shots, along with Paul Broadhurst and Peter Baker.

But, while Rock, just two places higher up the Order of Merit than Walker, was annoyed to miss out the way he did, he was still pleased for his rival.

"I'm happy for him as he has played well lately and to be on this side of drawer and still s hoot a good score is pretty impressive in weather like that.

"But it's disappointing to bow out the way I did. It was an important putt for my tournament, I wasn't told whether I could wait till tomorrow or not, and it's not nice when you can't really see the line."