They say it's hope that kills you – but what if hope is all you want?
As Simon Dyson tapped in his final putt, a flourish of the pencil signing off a fourth-round 68 at Lumine’s Hills course, he was as optimistic as he had been in years.
And yet he was going home – having missed the cut at European Tour Q School and with a playing status that is uncertain for next year.
But when you’ve reached a nadir, memories of returning form, the feeling that you used to get when you hit a pure shot, are rightly grasped like the Holy Grail.
Dyson arrived in Spain with hope of resurrecting a career that hadn’t so much fallen off a cliff as plunged into the ocean.
What was lost was hard to bear.
Not that long ago the 40-year-old was one of the best players on the planet – having won six Tour titles and hit the world’s top 30.
Then it all started to go south. He suffered a list of injuries that can only be done justice with a body diagram and a collection of arrows.
The worst was a slipped tendon in his wrist, a blow that required surgery and a long-term lay-off. The wait to return proved the least of his worries.
“It just didn’t feel the same,” he explained. “My swing changed a little bit and I didn’t have the strength there either.
“I just didn’t trust it. Every time I hit a shot, all I remembered was how horrible it felt when it went. I was so scared that was going to happen again.
“Everyone who had been involved with my wrist were saying ‘it won’t happen again, don’t worry’. But, to me, it still felt like it could.
“I just wouldn’t commit to shots and I would subconsciously protect my wrist. That got me in a terrible position of high hands and the club behind me. You just can’t hit it from there.
“I played for so long like that, it almost became my swing. I’ve played poorly, swung the club poorly, I’m not denying that. It’s been really difficult.”
And the harder he tried, the worse things got.
“There would be times where I would put in three-hour sessions on the range and I’d walk off at the end and it was as bad as when I started. I’m like ‘what a waste of three hours that was’.
“It was really, really hard. There were a lot of very low points. I could have walked away from the sport numerous times, I really could. I’d had enough.”
Playing on the Challenge Tour proved, well, a challenge. For a player who had been used to eating at the top table, leaving the summit was depressing.
“A couple of my mates are footballers – played Premier League all their lives – and all of a sudden they are in division one and they absolutely hate it.
“I keep saying to them ‘I know exactly how you feel’. I was playing in The Masters six years ago. All of a sudden, I am playing in Bilbao in the freezing cold, on a crap golf course, and playing for nothing.”
But chance intervened at the scene of his greatest triumph – the Dunhill Links Championship – and may just have revitalised him.
“I’d been hitting my irons terribly. I’d get a wedge in my hand and when I was swinging it rubbish I’d be thinking ‘just hit the green’.
“I got the guy from Cobra up. I am testing the new irons and I look in the bag and there’s one of those XL JumboMax grips that Bryson DeChambeau uses.
“You get hold of something and you think ‘that feels really good’. I hit a few shots with it and they were going right, but I was thinking ‘I can’t hit this left’. I’d hit a draw and it would go two yards and that was me trying to draw it.
“It has absolutely transformed my game. All of a sudden, I’m hitting the shot I want to hit.”
Three bad shots, and a couple of three jabs, on the third day all but ended his hopes of making the cut. You can’t go backwards here.
But where he left the Costa Daurada in bits 12 months ago, it’s a very different feeling this time around.
It’s partly thanks to that 68, and particularly a back-nine 31 that was vintage. There were shots to savour – a 255-yard 3-wood that skewered the par-5 11th and dropped 10 feet away. Eagle followed.
Even better was the 5-iron that smoked the flag at the par 3 14th and was the first of three birdies in four holes as he swept through the back nine.
“It felt as good as it did when I was playing my best,” he declared. “The one for me was that 5-iron on the par 3. That’s the best shot I have hit for five years.
“It felt like I knew exactly what I was doing. I hit it to four feet and that shot gave me more pleasure than any other shot this week.
“I don’t know what the year holds golf-wise now but that last round has just given me the bug to go and play again.
“I could go out to Dubai and play a few MENA Tour events or to Asia and play a few out there.
“When I commit to it I am hitting shots I haven’t seen for four or five years and that’s really pleasing.”
Hope may have been restored. And hope is everything.