With play under way at the Shankai Classic presented by IDG, europeantour.com’s Nick Totten takes a look at the key figures that have been required to earn a spot in the provisional graduating class so far, and what the competitors are playing for in the potentially career-defining final four events ahead.
When someone tees it up at the start of any season on the European Challenge Tour there is one thing that remains at the forefront of their mind throughout, and that is to make it into the top 15 on the year-long Rankings, which brings with it a place amongst the elite of The Race to Dubai.
After 23 tournaments across 18 countries so far, the make-up of the provisional class of 2014 is still to be decided, with a number of players having already assured themselves of promotion come the end of the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club, but a few places still being up for grabs.
So far to have earned a place in the top 15 on the Rankings, the players who currently inhabit those spots have played an average of 16 tournaments, making 12 cuts and earning an average of €95,498 so far this season.
Amongst those in the box seats, Moritz Lampert has earned the most money from the fewest events, winning three times en route to an average prize haul of €14,871 for each of his nine starts.
Sam Hutsby and Edouard Espana have played the most events heading into the final four, teeing it up in 19 of the 23 events beforehand this season, a twosome which is also a reflection of the multicultural nature of the Rankings, with this pair part of an elite 15 that includes ten different nationalities.
France is the most represented country among the potential graduates so far, with Espana joined by Michael Lorenzo-Vera and Benjamin Hebert, the latter of which has achieved the same feat as Andrew Johnston and Jake Roos in having won twice so far this season.
There are also four players at the summit of the list though who are yet to taste victory so far in 2014 – namely Florian Fritsch, Espana, Lorenzo-Vera and Lasse Jensen. Silverware has therefore not been essential this season, rather solid play, with an average of five top ten finishes per player.
Johnston has amassed the most of those so far, with eight, which means he has ended up in the top ten in 53 per cent of the tournaments he has played. Evidence therefore that consistency is king, in a year when winning has simply not been enough.
Proof of that comes from the fact that there are six tournament victors outside the graduating places which will earn a starting berth on next year’s Race to Dubai – with Andrew McArthur (17th), Thomas Linard (22nd), Joakim Lagergren (34th), William Harrold (35th), Pierre Relecom (40th) and Ricardo Gouveia (49th) all down the list.
There is plenty to play for though in the remaining four events of the season, meaning anyone teeing it up can still do enough to earn their spot on The European Tour thanks to an approximate prize fund of €1,157,240 being up for a grabs.
At the moment the distance on the Rankings between Johnston at first and Scott Henry at 15th is €120,651, which suggests there is not much chance of someone coming from too far back to catch the Englishman at top spot, but there is certainly plenty to play for behind.
Currently there is only €25,419 between 15th and 45th place, which means anyone currently in a position to qualify for the season-ending Grand Final could still graduate from the second tier.
It promises to be a thrilling final four events of the season then, with plenty to play for, as part of a globe-trotting end to the year.
If the players were to start their Final Swing journey at the Challenge Tour headquarters at Wentworth Club in England, then they would travel a total approximate distance of 15,446km to end up in Dubai.
One final impressive number, in an entire season of them, but there remains only one that the players will be focusing on over the next four weeks – 15.