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Friday, 19 March 2010
With just five tournaments remaining and the season's finishing line in sight, this week's Formby Hall Challenge on Merseyside is vitally important especially for those players just outside the leading 15 on the Rankings or hovering outside the top 45.

The leading 45 ranked players will qualify for the season-ending Grand Final in Bordeaux in late October after which those in the top 15 places on the Rankings will automatically earn cards to next season's European Tour.

So every shot and every euro earned is vitally important, none more so than to England's Sam Little, who will be the defending champion at Formby Hall.

Despite his victory a year ago, Little ended ranked 61st and missed out on both counts. He goes into the Formby Hall event in 35th spot and would dearly love to repeat his 2001 success. "I can't wait to defend the title and, after a week off beforehand, I can prepare properly," he said.

This week's field of 156, split between the Challenge and Europro Tours, includes seven of this year's Challenge Tour Champions.

It also includes McGrane, whose closing 76 last year left him in third place, three strokes behind Little.

The 31 year old Irishman displayed his best form of the year to finish fourth in the BMW Russian Open a few weeks ago, then was joint 30th in the North West of Ireland Open. Currently 31st on the ranking, he knows a good week will hoist him towards that top 15 place.

The Formby Hall Challenge will be the second Challenge Tour event to be played in England this year following the highly successful Charles Church Challenge Tour Championship at Bowood Golf and Country Club in Wiltshire in July. That was won by John Morgan, currently fifth on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, and another starter at Formby Hall.

This will be the seventh time the tournament has been played and the fourth under the present title, while three other venues have been the scene of some epic contests since the inaugural event was staged in 1996.

The first winner was Greg Owen, now an established European Tour member, who triumphed at The Warwickshire, then in 1997 at Wynyard Hall, Olivier Edmond from France took the title, while Robert Lee, now a TV pundit, won the following year at Princes.

When Formby Hall staged the tournament for the first time in 1999, a dramatic and extended play-off was required before Greg Hutcheon beat his fellow Scot, Alastair Forsyth after the pair had tied on 20-under-par 268. They set off again, but with darkness closing in, only one extra hole was possible which was halved in birdies.

It was agreed to share the title but under Challenge Tour regulations there has to be a winner so the players returned 18 days later when Hutcheon came out on top with a birdie at the second extra hole, the third overall.
Two years ago, a play-off was again needed with Sweden's Fredrik Henge and Simon Khan from England tied on 10 under par 270. But this time a swift conclusion was reached with Henge taking the title with a birdie-four at the first extra hole.

This week the prize fund is £75,000 (approx. 120,000 Euro), up £20,000 on last year with £12,500 going to the winner.

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Tournament Leaderboard

PosPlayer NameNatHolePar
1BLACKEY, MatthewENG18-13
T2DIXON, DavidENG18-12
T2MCGRANE, DamienIRL18-12
4VON POST, HampusSWE18-11
T5GRIFFITHS, DavidENG18-9
T5SJÖBERG, RaimoSWE18-9
R2D Fantasy

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