Former champion José-Filipe Lima of Portugal returns to this week’s dual ranking SAINT OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC hoping the fond memories of 2004 will spark a return to form.
Lima was born and raised in France before adopting his parents’ Portuguese nationality in September 2004, three months after claiming his maiden European Tour title at Aa St Omer Golf Club in Lumbres, France.
The 28 year old again showed his liking for the 6,645 yards, par 71 layout last year, when he finished in a tie for second place behind runaway winner Christian Nilsson of Sweden – a performance which yielded €55,500 in prize money and helped him finish second in the final 2009 Challenge Tour Rankings.
By his own admission Lima, who captured the 2009 ECCO Tour Championship, has struggled with his game this year, but he is hopeful a return to the scene of his 2004 triumph – allied with a change of coach – will kick-start his season.
Lima said: “The main reason I’m playing is because I recently changed my coach, so I need to play as much as I can to work on my swing. I’d been with my last coach for 13 years, so maybe it was just time for a change. I also changed my manager and my physical trainer at the same time, so I’ve changed everything! But hopefully my results at St Omer won’t change, because I’ve played very well there in the past.
“I have great memories of my win there in 2004. It happened so quickly, because I had only just got my Challenge Tour card through the Alps Tour. Even when Alessandro [Tadini] missed the putt on the last, I still couldn’t believe I’d won – it was a fantastic feeling. But in some ways my second place finish there last year was even more important, because 2008 had been a very tough year for me. So to finish runner-up and know I’d almost got my European Tour card back was great.
“Hopefully I can have another good week there and the wind will blow again, because I seem to play better in the wind. When I won in Denmark on the Challenge Tour last season it was very windy, and it was also blowing hard in Portugal last week, so that was good practice. I actually played very well on the last day, but two bad mistakes cost me a double bogey and a triple bogey. I think when it’s windy it actually makes it easier for me, because it takes away a lot of options with your shots. I also feel like my ball control is one of my strong points, so maybe I have a bit of an advantage.”
As usual, half the field will be drawn from the Challenge Tour – including seven winners from the 2010 Schedule – and the other half from The European Tour, with two-time European Tour winner Raphaël Jacquelin – currently 71st in The Race to Dubai – expected to lead the home challenge.