Friday, 19 March 2010
Another long yet successful European Challenge Tour season reaches an exciting climax when the Grand Final is played in Bordeaux.

The season, which got underway in Nairobi, Kenya, in March, reaches its final port of call at Golf du Médoc, the magnificent French complex west of Bordeaux, which has been the venue of several European Tour events in the past.

The Grand Final represents three contests in one. There is the tournament itself with a prize fund of €200,000, the race for the Number One spot on the Rankings, and the battle to secure the 15 European Tour cards for next season.

Because it is the climax to the year, the Grand Final is limited to the leading 45 players on the Rankings, similar to the Volvo Masters Andalucia on The European Tour, which has no halfway cut.

While the tournament takes care of itself, the chase for top spot is an intriguing situation. England's Lee James has been on top for most of the year thanks to his three victories, and it seemed as if he had closed the door on everyone else.

But Jean-François Lucquin has not given up the fight; neither has Englishman Matthew Blackey after his back-to-back victories in the Formby Hall Challenge and Telia Grand Prix. James leads Lucquin by €19,493 with Blackey €7,516 further back.

The rest look too far back to affect the Number One spot, which looks to be between these three, and with €34,260 on offer to the winner in Bordeaux, there could still be a change on the cards.

The fight for the top 15 places is much more unpredictable. The leading seven players have secured their cards, but the other eight spots are still in dispute.

The history of the Challenge Tour Grand Final has thrown up some improbable scenarios where players have climbed from outside the top 15 to claim a card. In Portugal in 1997, when torrential rain reduced the Grand Final to 54 holes, France's Nicolas Joakimides was declared the winner and leapt from 26th to sixth to secure his card in dramatic fashion.

When the tournament visited Cuba in 1999, Stephen Scahill from New Zealand won the tournament and moved from outside the top 15 into fifth place on the Rankings. And two years ago, again in Cuba, England's Andrew Raitt finished joint second in the tournament to jump from 27th to 14th.

But there hasn't been a more exciting climax than last year at Golf du Médoc when Richard Bland experienced one of those weeks every emerging golfer prays for. The young Englishman arrived in France in 44th place, then stormed to victory with a closing 63, including a back nine of 29, to take the title and a card in tenth place.

And while there is promotion, someone gets relegated from a top 15 spot and that is likely to happen again with several players from 16th position and below waiting for a chance to climb the ladder. Those waiting to pounce include Italy's Massimo Florioli, Germany-based Englishman David Geall, Ivo Giner from Spain, Titch Moore from South Africa, Ed Stedman from Australia, Belgium’s Didier de Vooght and Sweden's Fredrik Widmark.

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Tournament Leaderboard

PosPlayer NameNatHolePar
1LAWRIE, PeterIRL18-12
2VAN HAUWE, JulienFRA18-8
T3ARRUTI, Jesus MariaESP18-4
T3DIXON, DavidENG18-4
T6HUGET , WolfgangGER18-3
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