Part two of the ALLIANZ trilogy takes place this week with the top nine on the Challenge Tour Rankings, led by current Number One Andrew Butterfield, heading the field assembled for the ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon.
The fact so many of the leading players have gathered at Golf du Gouverneur in Monthieux underlines the significance of this event and all will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, England’s David Horsey.
Horsey’s victory 12 months ago helped him finish the season as Challenge Tour Number One and he has subsequently flourished on The European Tour with two top tens, including joint second in Malaysia, and he is currently on the threshold of breaking into the top 50 of The Race to Dubai.
Butterfield will be hoping history repeats itself as he looks to follow Horsey’s example. Twelve months ago Horsey’s win in the ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon was his second in the space of three weeks. Butterfield won the event a fortnight ago and certainly has his sights set on matching Horsey’s feat as he looks to consolidate pole position in the Rankings.
ALLIANZ title sponsor three events on the Challenge Tour Schedule in France – the ALLIANZ Open Cotes d’Amor Bretagne, won by England’s Lee S James in May; this week’s ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon and the ALLIANZ Golf Open del Grand Toulouse in October.
James, who topped the Challenge Tour Rankings in 2002, is looking to force his way back onto The European Tour after losing his card last season and an ALLIANZ double would go a long way to securing this goal.
His victory in May, after a dramatic play-off victory over German rookie Florian Fritsch, was the Englishman’s first for seven years and took the former Amateur Champion’s tally of Challenge Tour titles to five.
Currently 11th in the Challenge Tour Rankings after finishing joint 16th last week in Switzerland, James will be looking to force his way back into the top ten this week.
Indeed the ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon seems to carry particular significance for Number Ones. Horsey, last year’s Number One, captured the title last year, Lee S James, Number One in 2002 won the last ALLIANZ sponsored event, and Butterfield, the current Number One, is clearly the form player.
Italy’s Edoardo Molinari is another player in a rich vein of form. Currently second behind Butterfield on the Rankings, the 2005 US Amateur Champion, will arrive in Lyon with plenty of confidence after finishing third in the Credit Suisse Challenge as he looks to regain top spot while last week’s runner-up, Florian Praegant of Austria, will also be hoping for another good week after challenging Peter Baker all the way in Switzerland.
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