The penultimate tournament of the European Challenge Tour season is always a significant event, but this year it takes on even more importance as the Tour makes its maiden visit to Oman for the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic.
Appropriately enough, with just the top 45 players in the Rankings progressing to the season-ending Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club next week, Oman will this week become the 45th country to have hosted a Challenge Tour event.
With so much at stake it is little wonder that the tournament has attracted such a strong field, with second placed Brooks Koepka and 22nd ranked Seve Benson – both of whom are now plying their trade predominantly on The European Tour – the only players from the top 30 not teeing up at the superb Almouj Golf, The Wave.
Italian Andrea Pavan is still the man to catch at the top of the Rankings, but much of the attention in Muscat will focus on those players desperately bidding to secure their berths in next week’s finale.
For the likes of Julien Guerrier, who climbed to 45th place on the back of his top ten finish in China last week, nerves will be frayed as the Frenchman strives to cling on to the last remaining ticket to the €330,000 showpiece in Dubai.
Just €445 separates Guerrier from Englishman Daniel Brooks in 46th place and, with a prize fund of US$300,000 on offer to the 114-man field, there are likely to be several twists and turns throughout the week.
One player who will arrive in Oman full of confidence is Nacho Elvira, who won last week’s Foshan Open to climb to 13th place in the Rankings. Another strong performance from the Spaniard this week would effectively seal his graduation to The European Tour alongside his close friend and former college room-mate Pavan.
Elvira, who saw off India’s Shiv Kapur and the English duo of Tyrrell Hatton and Sam Walker in Foshan City last week, will bid to become the first player this season to secure back to back titles.
He said: “Before China my only thoughts were just to qualify for the Grand Final in Dubai, but after my win I’m obviously thinking of the top 15. There’s still a long way to go and a lot of prize money to play for, so a lot can happen but at least I’ve given myself a chance.
“I’ve never won before so I don’t know how hard it is to play well the week after, but hopefully I can keep this feeling going for two more weeks and finish it off.”
The 7,342-yard, par 72 championship course at Almouj Golf, The Wave, which was designed by Australian Major Champion Greg Norman, follows the natural lines of Muscat’s pristine coastline.