England’s Matt Ford has targeted a repeat of his performance at last year’s M2M Russian Challenge Cup as he bids to climb into the all-important top 20 of the Challenge Tour Rankings.
Ford achieved the highest finish of his Challenge Tour career at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Tseleevo Golf and Polo Club 12 months ago, when he finished in a tie for second place alongside compatriot Tommy Fleetwood and Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen, who has since taken The European Tour by storm.
Ford’s closing round of 66, which was the joint lowest of the final day, was not enough to prevent Spaniard Carlos del Moral from collecting his debut Challenge Tour title by one stroke, but the 33 year old has returned to Moscow this week bidding to go one better and boost his current Ranking position of 35th.
He said: “Obviously I’ve got fond memories of the place, not just because I played so well here last year, but also because it’s such a fantastic course. I’m really looking forward to getting out there again. Everyone talks about the run of holes from the 11th, which are spectacular, but there aren’t really any weak holes on the whole course.
“It’s going to be playing its full length this week because of the rain they’ve had here, which doesn’t really suit my game because I’m not the biggest hitter in the world, so my long irons and my short game will have to be good. That was the key to my good result last year, so I’m hoping that’ll be the case again this week.
“I’ll need to have a big week to start climbing the Rankings, because there aren’t many tournaments left this season now. I could really have done with a better result in Kazakhstan last week, because of the size of the prize fund.
“But I really struggled with a back injury on the second and third days, so I could only really swing at three-quarter speed. I actually played pretty nicely – it was only when my back felt much better on the last day that my game started to fall apart! But hopefully it’ll hold up well and I can have another good week.”
Ford’s fellow Englishman Fleetwood will be bidding to become the second player this season, after Frenchman Benjamin Hebert, to win back to back Challenge Tour titles following his victory at last week’s Kazakhstan Open, which sent him to the top of the Rankings.
With an increased prize fund of €250,000 on offer to the 132-man field this week, a repeat victory would give Fleetwood a virtually unassailable lead at the top of the Rankings.
Former Number One Ricardo Santos will be keen to reclaim his place at the head of the Rankings, while the likes of Sweden’s Peter Gustafsson and Portugal’s José-Filipe Lima, respectively 18th and 20th in the Rankings, will be seeking to pull away from the dreaded 21st spot, which is currently occupied by Ireland’s Simon Thornton.
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