The Omega Mission Hills World Cup is not only a collection of the most talented players on the planet battling for national pride, it is a reminder of the strength of the European Challenge Tour.
Twenty eight countries are represented at Mission Hills Resort Hainan Island in China, and of those 56 players, no fewer than 23 have plied their trade on the Challenge Tour at some point in their careers.
Edoardo Molinari, who with his brother Francesco will defend the title for Italy this week following their historic victory in 2009, is arguably one of its more successful graduates, having won the 2009 Challenge Tour Rankings before triumphing twice on The European Tour in 2010 and making his Ryder Cup debut later the same year.
Dane Thorbjørn Olesen finished third in the 2010 Rankings and caps a hugely promising debut season on The European Tour by partnering Anders Hansen, while Englishman Ian Poulter and Germany’s Martin Kaymer both started out their careers on European golf’s second tier before going on to reach the pinnacle of the game.
Austrian pair Roland Steiner and Florian Praegant are current Challenge Tour players – the latter just missing out on promotion to The European Tour this year, finishing in 22nd place, just two spots and less than €1,000 away from gaining a card.
Ricardo Santos of Portugal finished fourth in this year’s Rankings following his maiden professional victory in July and partners his brother, Hugo, who has also played on the Challenge Tour.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts graduated in third place in the 2009 Rankings and Sweden’s Alex Noren and Spaniard Alvaro Quiros were in the class of 2006, finishing third and 18th respectively.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson was fourth in the 2007 Rankings, the same year Dutchman Joost Luiten, who won the Iskandar Johor Open last week, finished sixth.
And Major Winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Justin Rose of England, Alex Cjeka of Germany, Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin, Robert-Jan Derksen of Holland, Swede Robert Karlsson, Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and Belgian Jerôme Theunis have all played on the Challenge Tour at some point in their careers.
France’s Grégory Bourdy played on the Challenge Tour in 2003 and 2004, and Wales’ Rhys Davies finished fourth in the 2009 Rankings before going on to triumph in his rookie season on The European Tour in 2010.
Davies said: “Jamie’s an old timer – I think it’s his second World Cup – but this is my first one. So he’ll be guiding me. It’s a new experience for me. Obviously there are some world class players but so are Jamie and I, so there’s no reason why we can’t go out there and compete with the best of them.”