The 2008 European Challenge Tour touches down in Italy for the Margara Diehl-Ako Platinum Open and the start of a two week period that will determine who secures their place on the starting line for The Race to Dubai.
Never before has the incentive for Challenge Tour professionals to make the leap to The European Tour been so big, with only the top 20 at the end of the season earning the right to compete in the inaugural Race to Dubai.
While the battle at the top of the Challenge Tour Rankings will draw serious attention at the beautiful Margara Golf Club this week, the most intense pressure and focus will shine on those players in and around 45th place on the Rankings.
With only the top 45 players at the conclusion of the Margara Diehl-Ako Platinum Open qualifying for next week’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final the likes of Roope Kakko (currently 45th) and Andrew Willey (46th) will have to produce a gutsy performance to secure their places in the season-ending Grand Final.
Kakko and Willey are a perfect example of the miniscule margins of success and failure on the Challenge Tour, with Kakko just €44 ahead of Willey going into the Margara Diehl-Ako Platinum Open.
If the gap between the 45th and 46th players on the Rankings is similarly tight come Sunday evening, one man will go to the Grand Final with an opportunity of securing a dream ticket to The European Tour, while the other will feel their season is in danger of falling apart – all for the sake of €44!
Such margins breed high intensity and drama and the stakes do not come much higher for the Challenge Tour professionals, all of who are eying this week’s €25,600 top prize for a variety of reasons.
The players at the top of the Rankings will be desperate to consolidate their positions, while the players at the bottom are searching for that one priceless victory that could rejuvenate their year.
Gary Lockerbie leads the way at the top of the Rankings following his sensational victory in the recent Kazakhstan Open, but David Horsey, Gareth Maybin, Seve Benson, Taco Remkes and Richie Ramsay can all catch the Englishman with a successful fortnight in Italy.