Tapio Pulkkanen arrives at the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 in the form of his life after back-to-back career-best performances on the European and Challenge Tours.
The Finn nearly secured a maiden victory on the Road to Oman in Turkey last month, pushing eventual champion Ryan Evans close in an enthralling final day battle in Antalya.
That runner-up finish landed the 2015 Nordic Golf League Number One the biggest pay cheque of his career to date – and clearly filled the 26 year old with confidence as he put in another top ten performance at the dual-ranking Open de Portugal at Morgado Golf Resort the following week.
Those results have pushed Pulkkanen up to fourth place in the Road to Oman Rankings, and the man from Helsinki is determined to maintain this form throughout the season.
“My game feels really good the moment,” said Pulkkanen, who finished 140th on the 2016 Road to Oman.
“I really feel like I’m on top of my game, and I’m confident coming into this week. I haven’t had a chance to play the course yet but I’m hopeful of putting in another good performance.
“This year so far has been a lot better for me as I’m not thinking about my technique when I’m on the course – I’m just going out and playing.
“I think my putting was really good in Portugal. Also my wedge game. My driving was not the best but I managed to keep it together and it was a good result.
“After such a good winter – I went to Orlando for six weeks and then Spain for three weeks – I don’t have to worry about anything when I’m on the course. It has all come together really well and I’m hoping I can carry on playing this way throughout the season.”
This week poses a different challenge for Pulkkanen, with match play returning to the Challenge Tour for the first time in 18 years.
After two rounds of traditional stroke play, the top 32 will progress to the weekend where they will face off against one another in nine-hole battles.
Despite not having competed in a match play event since he was an amateur, the in-form Finn is excited to try the new format – and is fearing no one.
“There is no one in particular who I wouldn’t want to face,” he said. “I haven’t played that much match play since I was an amateur back in Finland, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“I think you have to make a lot of birdies here this week, so hopefully I can go out there and continue doing what I’ve been doing and then I might have a chance.”