As the European Challenge Tour’s finest prepare to tee it up for the inaugural National Bank of Oman Golf Classic, almost everyone has something huge to play for. We speak to some of the players with the most on the line at this season’s crucial penultimate event…
The National Bank of Oman Golf Classic represents the final opportunity to make the 45-man cut for the season-ending Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club.
At the conclusion of the lavish grand finale in Dubai, the top 15 in the Rankings will earn their playing rights for The 2014 European Tour International Schedule, but there will be many present in Muscat this week with their sights set firmly on a result that would copper-fasten their place in that elite band with a week still to play.
We speak to some of those players with most at stake at the scorching hot and pristine Almouj Golf, The Wave this week…
Chasing Top 45 in the Rankings
|George Murray (55th)
“If you look at my results this year, I have played well when the weather is nice. It just seems better for your body and hopefully I can get the putter going early doors and shoot a few nice low numbers and get in the mix.
“The top 45 is not the be all and end all because you could go and do well at Qualifying School. I don’t want to put any extra pressure on myself, I just want to go and try play nicely.
|“My form has definitely started to improve because it was dreadful for a while but I worked on a few things and hopefully it’s getting better. The course is linksy so it definitely suits me. It’s quite bouncy and there is a bit of grain on the greens so hopefully I can get the run of them early on and play well.”
Alvaro Velasco (53rd)
“Making the top 45 is definitely in my mind. It’s hard to put it aside and just play golf because it’s end of the season, there is only one tournament left and you know your chances of playing in the Grand Final rest on having a good tournament here. My goal is to make top five this week.
“I have to prepare for that and then on the course stick to one shot at a time and play my best game. It feels like you pay more attention to details which can be good but sometimes it takes you away from your flow a little.
|"You get too into it. The pressure is good for preparation but when you’re out on the course you just have to do your best and play good golf.
“I like this position, where you have to perform. It motivates me even more but I need to be sure that my game is out there on the course.
“I want it pretty bad, to be at the Grand Final. It would mean a lot to me and especially because it’s the first one in Dubai. I would love to play there so I'm going to give it my best shot.”
|Knut Borsheim (47th)
“Of course it’s a huge week. I have to do well and maybe win one of these last two tournaments if I have a chance of getting a European Tour card.
“I have been sick for a few weeks now but if I can just play well this week hopefully I can make it to Dubai.
“Since Kazakhstan I haven’t been able to practice because I haven’t been well but from here on in it’s all about will.
|"I have to dig deep and try to do my best. Golf is funny sometimes, you can feel really bad about it but then you can go out and shoot some numbers.
“I just have to go out and try my best, you never know. It’s a great course out there, I can’t say anything negative about it. It’s nice to go to a venue like this and just play.
“Right now it’s just more about surviving out there, with the heat, but hopefully I can put myself into a position where I can compete. If it’s warm like this it feels like you’re out there playing for something and makes it that much easier.
“If I didn’t think I could rise to this occasion I wouldn’t be playing golf. I think I can and I hope I can and we just have to see what happens.”
Chasing Top 15 in the Rankings
|Rhys Davies (32nd)
“Nothing really changes this week, every week is a big week for me. I want to win a tournament and I'm not even worried about the top 15. Of course, everybody wants to be in there, no doubt about it but right now I'm more interested in contending and winning a golf tournament.
“I have another opportunity to do that this week so I'm looking forward to it. It’s a good course, I thought it was excellent when I was out there.
|There is a good mix of holes, some long tough ones and some shorter narrow ones and it’s in great shape. Whoever wins this week will be fully deserving of it.
“I have been playing quite well the last few weeks and had some good performances and good scores so I'm very optimistic, the game is starting to come together.”
Jens Dantorp (16th)
“It’s not the worst spot on the Rankings to be, that’s for sure. At least one of these two weeks has to be big for me so we just have to see which one it will be.
“Of course, it would be nicer if I could play well now and keep the pressure off next week but we’ll see what happens. I'm just going to play my game and that’s all I can do.
|“I think this kind of pressure is something I have to enjoy. Obviously I would rather be on top of the Rankings but then it’s also less pressure to hunt than to be the hunted so I look forward to it.
“It’s an amazing course here, one of the best I have ever played. The weather is maybe a little too hot for a Scandinavian guy like me though!
“I think the course will play tough and I hope so because I enjoy tough courses. I’m not the kind of player that makes the most birdies so I think it could suit me this week.”
Chasing Number One
|Daan Huizing (third)
“To be honest I don’t really want to focus on that Number One spot because I have found that if I look at the Rankings it doesn’t help my game.
“I did that early on in my professional career on the (satellite) Alps Tour and it didn’t work for me at all so I am not going to think about it at all.
“I didn’t feel like I was very focussed last week in China and I didn’t play well and missed the cut. When I have played best this year I have been really relaxed.
|“It was crazy when I won in Ukraine where I just felt so relaxed for three and half rounds and I barely even noticed I was climbing the leaderboard. Then with nine holes to play suddenly I was up there and I just went for it.
“This week I just want to get back to playing well and just focussing on every shot.”