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Friday, 19 March 2010

The stage is set for the European Challenge Tour’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final with 45 hopefuls making their way the spectacular San Domenico Golf in southern Italy to battle for the 20 available places on The 2007 European Tour.

The Apulia San Domenico Grand Final is one of those sporting occasions that encapsulates every emotion, so fine is the line between success and failure.

Come Saturday evening at San Domenico Golf, 20 of the 45 man field will experience the ultimate reward of a place on The European Tour after a ten month season that has taken them to Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe in their quest to secure a dream ticket to golf’s grandest stage.

For those who make it, the mix of relief, joy and excitement will be in direct contrast to the despairing low that attaches itself to the players who just miss out on the top 20.

It has been another fascinating year for the Challenge Tour that has seen 30 tournaments staged all over the world, from Argentina to Kazakhstan, and, after a gruelling schedule, the Challenge Tour’s elite will descend upon San Domenico Golf for one of the most testing examinations of their careers.

Every one of the 45 men in the field has earned the right to contest the €250,000 prize fund, from current Number One Johan Axgren of Sweden, with €103,848, to 45th placed Julien Foret of France, who won his place at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final at the very last moment with his victory at the penultimate event of the season at the Golf International Open de Toulouse.

Every single player in the field can win one of the 20 European Tour cards by taking the first prize of €42,800, while every man in the current top ten can win the Rankings outright if they can take first place in Italy and other results go their way.

There are so many possibilities and permutations involving the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, but the bottom line for every player in the field is simple: Win this week and you will be a European Tour player next season.

Axgren, with two victories and a further seven top ten finishes to his name this year, has been the player of the year so far, leading the Rankings since his second victory of the season at the Tusker Kenya Open in March.

His quest to be Number One will come under the most intense scrutiny at San Domenico Golf, however, with many of the players closes to him on the Rankings in outstanding form going into the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.

Welshman Mark Pilkington currently occupies second place on the Rankings just €3835 behind Axgren after roaring into the Rankings race for the Number One spot by winning the richest Challenge Tour event ever staged at the Kazakhstan Open just three weeks ago.

A special mention should also be given to German sensation Martin Kaymer, who has produced an almost miraculous run of results to move to third place on the Rankings having played just seven events on the 2006 Schedule.

Kaymer won the Vodafone Challenge on his Challenge Tour debut and then also captured the Open des Volcans – Challenge de France. His five other results have not been too bad either with a second place finish, two thirds, a fourth and a 12th since that maiden victory in August.

Whichever player is crowned the best of the best of the 2006 Challenge Tour will reap the immediate benefits afforded upon the Number One player of the season by gaining entry to the HSBC Champions tournament in China, where World Number One Tiger Woods leads an elite field of golf champions from around the globe at the Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, from November 9-12.

As the first event of The 2007 European Tour, the HSBC Champions will give the Challenge Tour Number One the perfect opportunity to get his season off to a flying start.

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Tournament Leaderboard

PosPlayer NameNatHolePar
1HEPWORTH, JamesENG18-13
T2NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-11
T2PILKINGTON, MarkWAL18-11
T2ECHENIQUE, RafaARG18-11
T5HEATH, JamesENG18-10
T5HUGO, JeanRSA18-10
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