Monday, 04 December 2017
Julian Suri  (Getty Images)
Julian Suri (Getty Images)

Hyperbole often takes over when discussing the success of Challenge Tour players and it is easy to overplay the significance of one or two good performances from the latest young talent.

In the case of Julian Suri, however, it was entirely justified.

When the American teed it up at the Challenge Tour’s season opener in Kenya, he was a lowly 1142 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Just eight months later, he has risen a staggering 1079 places to sit 63rd in the world – the cliché of ‘meteoric rise’ has rarely felt more apposite, yet even that may be insufficient to do justice to the annus mirabilis Suri has enjoyed in 2017.

“I’ve definitely exceeded the expectations I had at the start of the year,” he says, somewhat underplaying a season that has seen him win on both the Challenge and European Tour – the first player ever to do so in the same campaign.

“One of my goals starting out the year was to get the Challenge Tour season going in a positive direction, obviously.  But I probably didn't expect to be playing in Race to Dubai events this year.

“I feel like I belong at the top of the game. This is definitely something I've worked for and kind of expected for a long time.

“But to finally come out and do it, especially after the string of good finishes this summer, is really special.”

Suri went largely under the radar when he first arrived in Europe in 2016. After playing a handful of times on the Challenge Tour, making every cut but never finishing higher than a share of 13th place, he narrowly missed out on a European Tour card at Qualifying School by one shot.

A tie for 41st in Nairobi in his first start of 2017 did not suggest what lay ahead but it would not take long for Suri to serve notice of his growing potential and confidence.

A final day charge at the Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort in May was not quite enough to catch Matt Wallace but a runner-up finish, the best result of his career to that point, was a sign of things to come, and it would not be long before Suri entered the winners’ circle.

Following an eye-catching foray on the European Tour in Sicily, where a second round of 62 suggested his game was nearing its best, the Floridian arrived at the D+D REAL Czech Challenge looking increasingly like a champion golfer in waiting.

Sharing the lead at the halfway stage, Suri pulled away from playing partner Tapio Pulkkanen on Moving Day with a bogey-free nine under par round of 63, but a three-shot overnight lead had evaporated by the turn on Sunday as the American let his Finnish rival back into the contest.

When it mattered the most, though, Suri produced perhaps his most impressive golf to date, reeling off four straight birdies from the 11th hole and ultimately securing a two-shot victory and a maiden Challenge Tour title.

He threatened to go back-to-back at the following week’s Swiss Challenge presented by ASG, leading after Round One and ultimately finishing in a tie for third place, before he also let a two-shot final day lead in Denmark slip away, but Suri had firmly established himself as one of the Challenge Tour’s rising stars.

It was on his return to Denmark, in fact, that the wider golfing world became aware of the latest top talent emerging from the Road to Oman, following another milestone: a Major Championship debut at The 146th Open Championship.

Suri opted to gain some European Tour experience by playing in the Made in Denmark instead of the Challenge Tour’s Rolex Trophy and fully justified it with a remarkably mature performance at Himmerland.

In the final group on the last day, Suri overturned David Horsey’s two-shot advantage to win a maiden European Tour title by four shots, going bogey-free over the last 18 holes on his way to making history.

No player has ever previously won a full European Tour event in the same season as winning on the Challenge Tour. Before Portugal in May, Suri had not even finished in the top ten on either tour; in three months he had become a serial contender, a two-time winner and a significant player at the very top of the game.

“Coming to Europe and initially playing Challenge Tour, I thought there was a higher ceiling than in the States,” he said. “I wanted to test my game under all conditions and it’s cool now to be comfortable in all types of conditions.

“I’ve put myself in all types of conditions and I think I’m a better player for it. Getting used to travelling and living out of a suitcase, how to structure your Monday to Sunday, all of the off course stuff, you have to figure that out for yourself.

“Then obviously contending in a tournament and dealing with everything throughout the week from Thursday through Sunday, it's really just encompassing everything and it's been a really good progression for me, first on the Challenge Tour and now on the European Tour.”

The progress continues. Back-to-back top tens in Spain and Turkey earned Suri a spot in the Race to Dubai’s limited field season finale, the DP World Tour Championship, a staggering achievement for a player who only started focussing on the European Tour in August.

Suri then opened his 2018 campaign with a runner-up finish in the season-opening UBS Hong Kong Open. The meteor has clearly not burned out yet – Suri remains one to watch this season, and is very much the latest, and brightest, Challenge Tour success story.

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