The Swede was in contention going into the weekend at last week’s M2M Russian Challenge Cup but couldn’t push on in the final two days and eventually finished in tied 13th place - three shots better than Lockerbie - to close the gap at the top of the Rankings to just €390.Carlsson is now looking forward to returning to a tournament which played a big part in his gaining a European Tour card for the 2011 season after finishing tied fifth in the 2010 Kazakhstan Open at Zhailjau Golf Resort, the course to which the tournament returns this week.
With the biggest prize fund of a regular Challenge Tour event at €400,000, it is a tournament which can change seasons and Carlsson is hoping that it can be the launch pad for him to take to the top of the Rankings.However, the Västerås native knows he will have to find his best form to be in with a chance of overhauling the in-form Lockerbie, whose second-placed finish at the lucrative co-sanctioned St Omer Open in June was one of five top tens in 2012.
“Of course it would be nice to be Number One but if I don’t keep playing well I won’t get there and if I play how I did in Russia on the Saturday I won’t be Number One by the end of the season,” said the 32 year old. “I just have to work out what happened and see what I can do better.”It’s been an extremely consistent season for Carlsson on both The European Tour and the Challenge Tour, having not missed a cut all year on either tour while recording three top ten finishes on The European Tour, and he currently sits in 111th place in The Race to Dubai despite having played only nine tournaments.
But he is happy with his decision to stick with the Challenge Tour for the remainder of the season and he is now relishing the opportunity of returning to Kazakhstan and once again challenging for the most sought-after title on the regular Challenge Tour schedule.The one-time Challenge Tour winner said: “It wasn’t a very difficult decision (to play the Challenge Tour for the second half of the season) because I wouldn’t have had many starts on The European Tour so if I wanted to play golf I needed to play Challenge Tour and now it looks like it is paying off.”
Speaking of Zhailjau Golf Resort in Almaty, he said: “It is a good, challenging course. The rough was quite high and the greens were rolling nicely and there were some nice holes so I like the course and I'm looking forward to it.”Aside from Kristoffer Broberg, who gained automatic promotion to The European Tour thanks to three Challenge Tour wins this season, and Raymond Russell, all of the top 20 players on the Challenge Tour Rankings are present for what is regarded as the Challenge Tour’s Major in the Central Asian city of Almaty.
The Kazakhstan Open is an event where success almost guarantees promotion to The European Tour.
Since its inception in 2005, every winner of the tournament has gone on to gain a card for The European Tour, and the last three victors have emerged as the Challenge Tour’s Number One player that same season – beginning with Italian Edoardo Molinari in 2009, then Spaniard Alvaro Velasco in 2010 before England’s Tommy Fleetwood repeated the feat last year.
For those players further down the Rankings, meanwhile, it can prove a crucial fortnight in turning their seasons round.Fleetwood’s superb win last season moved him from 18th place in the Rankings to the very top, and secured his playing privileges for The European Tour, while it was also crucial for the likes of Matthew Southgate and Simon Thornton, who both finished tied third last year, in earning their European Tour status.
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