Wednesday, 18 August 1999
The Challenge Tour makes its annual visit to Moscow this week for the Russian Open, which is being sponsored by German car giants BMW this year.

The field at the magnificent Moscow Country Club is again a strong one, reflecting the fact that this is the one tournament of the year that is a must for all the top players for three very good reasons - it is played on what they consider is the best course on the Challenge Tour schedule, everyone stays on site in a top-class Le Meriden hotel, and the top purse of £90,000.

So the BMW Russian Open has all the ingredients required of a leading tournament while it provides Russian golf fans with the opportunity to watch some of Europe's next generation of leading players at close quarters.

This will be the fourth Russian Open to form part of the Challenge Tour schedule. In 1996, Carl Watts, from England, was crowned champion, then a year later Italy's Michele Reale won after a playoff against Heinz Peter Thul of Germany. In 1998, Warren Bennett triumphed, one of his record five victories, as he progressed to the main tour.

This week's field includes Watts, Reale and Thul as well as most of the leading players on the Challenge Tour rankings who know that a successful week will perhaps seal their tour card for next year or at least provide a huge step towards it.
Historically, the Russian Open as always been a great success and much of that is due to the superb Robert Trent Jones Jnr layout. Constructed deep in a forest some 40 minutes from the centre of Moscow, the course provides a true test for the best golfers. Measuring over 7,000 yards, par 72, every hole is lined with towering pine or birch trees while several large lakes add to the character as well as the difficulty.

The overall prize apart, this year, thanks to the generosity of several leading sponsors, three of the four short holes will offer a substantial hole-in-one prize. At the 178-yard 4th, which is played over water, and the 195-yard 16th anyone sinking his tee-shot will receive US$25,000 with a further US$25,000 going to the development of golf in Russia, thanks to major sponsors Casino Corona and Russian Style Trade Mark. Then at the 198-yard 8th hole, the title-sponsors are offering a Five Series BMW.

On top of all this, Russian Style Trade Mark is also putting up a special prize for the lowest 18-hole score during the tournament, while official TV sponsor, REN-TV, will once again present a prize for the best Russian golfer.

The three previous Russian Open winners have gone on to secure their European Tour cards and with over 20,000 euro (almost £15,000) going to the winner there is every chance that this week's champion will follow suit.

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