Estanislao Goya is eyeing up a repeat of his 2008 Challenge Tour Grand Final win as he leads the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final by one shot at the halfway point.
The Argentinian, already a winner this season in Sweden, birdied the last hole at Al Mouj Golf to sign for a six under par round of 66 and reach 11 under par after two rounds in Muscat.
All focus this week is on the top 15 of the season-long Road to Oman Rankings, who will earn European Tour cards on Saturday evening, and Goya came into the week with work to do to improve on his 23rd spot.
Two good days have given him a strong chance, with his new projected Ranking at third, though he will be strongly chased by a truly international leaderboard, with players from Finland, France, Sweden, Poland, Australia, Germany and Spain all joining him in the top ten after 36 holes.
His nearest challenger is Finnish teenager Oliver Lindell, whose seven under par round of 65 – the low round of the week so far – was made all the more remarkable by the fact that his tournament preparation revolved around him starting six months of military service last week.
He sits on ten under par, one shot ahead of French duo Thomas Linard and Clément Sordet – who provided the highlight of the day when he made a hole-in-one on the eighth hole, at that point earning him a two-shot lead.
If things stay as they are, Goya and Lindell would both climb into the top 15 at the expense of Jens Dantorp and Robin Sciot-Siegrist, but much will change over the next two days before the Class of 2017 is finalised.
“It was a really good day for me today. It was a little bit hotter so I had to keep hydrated a little bit more, and it was a little bit more tricky in terms of the wind, so we had to be very careful and focus, make sure we were in the right places.
“I think these days the Challenge Tour is getting more and more difficult, the standard is getting even stronger. You can see that from the players who have won this year, so many different winners, and it truly is the Challenge Tour.
“You have to play really well to get yourself into the top 15. I’m in a good position, I still have chances, so I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it this weekend.
“It’s the best course we play on the Challenge Tour. It’s a good test and you have to play well, but if you play well it rewards you. It’s a great challenge for the week and is a great location for our Grand Final.”
“If I’m in the top two [only a top-two finish will earn Lindell a spot in the top 15] I will go back to military service next week, but if not I have Final Stage of the European Tour Qualifying School next week to try to get my card.
“I think military service is good for me. So far I’ve been doing pretty basic things like shooting and getting the beds made – they’re long days, starting at six o’clock and ending at nine.
“I am in the sports corps so I get chances to practise my game and they will be letting me continue my golf career alongside my service.
“What Tapio [Pulkkanen, the current Challenge Tour Number One] has done inspires me a lot. I’ve been following him since he won the Nordic League in 2015. Last year I finished second so I’ve kind of always been one step behind him.
“The first time I played with him I was 12 and we had a national camp in Spain and I played a foursome with Tapio. He hit the ball a long way and I was good with my wedges so we beat the other national team players.”
“It’s going pretty well so far. I’m very happy with where my game is right now, I’ve been playing really well for these last three weeks, so things are looking good.
“There is always pressure on the Grand Final because a lot of guys can get into the top 15 with a good week. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully I’ll be fine.
“I had 155 metres and I was actually aiming a bit further right, because the pin was tucked short and left. I just hit a great shot and the ball pitched just short of the hole and went in – I couldn’t see the ball actually go in but I saw a guy jumping around behind the green so I figured out what had happened!”