The top two players in the Challenge Tour Rankings, Gary Lockerbie and Magnus A Carlsson, will be able to keep a very close eye on one another in the opening round of the Rolex Trophy, having been drawn together in the first group out at 8.30am on Wednesday morning.
As is traditional in this week’s elite 42-man event – which will be played at Golf Club de Genève, in the Swiss capital, for the 24th successive season – the players are paired in Rankings order in the first round, adding a competitive edge to what is otherwise one of the most relaxed and enjoyable weeks on the Challenge Tour Schedule.
With less than €1,000 currently separating the two men at the top of the tree, and with €24,400 on offer to the winner, this week’s tournament could go a long way towards determining who ends the 2012 campaign as the Number One graduate.
Lockerbie came close to topping the Rankings in 2008, when he won the Kazakhstan Open en route to finishing runner-up behind his compatriot David Horsey.
Since then, Lockerbie has yo-yoed between The European and Challenge Tours but, thanks to a quartet of top five finishes this season including – most significantly – at the dual ranking SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC, the 29 year old has already guaranteed his place in The 2013 Race to Dubai.
That is his first mission accomplished, but after reaching the summit of the Rankings Lockerbie has since been forced to re-adjust his goals for the season, and is now determined to stay there for the remainder of the campaign.
He said: “It would be great to get back onto the Tour as the Number One. A few people have been mentioning it to me, so I’m constantly being reminded that I’m up there to be shot at! In some ways the pressure’s been taken off me, because I’ve already guaranteed my card for next season – but in another way I’m under pressure to stay at the top of the Rankings. It’s a nice type of pressure to be under though, because I’d certainly rather be fighting for first than 20th place.”
Lockerbie finished in a tie for fifth place on his last visit to the tournament in 2008, and is hoping to scale the same heights on his return to Golf Club de Genève, which affords spectacular views of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe.
He said: “There’s some good prize money on offer here, so it’s a very important week. But you’ve got the best 40 or so players on the Challenge Tour this season, so any win is going to be very hard-earned. I’m going to have to play very well this week to stay at the top of the Rankings, so it’s a big challenge and one I’m really looking forward to.
“It’s a lovely golf course in a beautiful part of the world and we get treated very well here, so if the sun continues to shine we should be all set for a great week. It’s a fun week on and off the course, with the Pro-Am format for the tournament and the functions in the evenings. So it’s always a week the players look forward to, and I’m no different.
“I decided to miss the tournament in Denmark to prepare for this week, and I felt pretty sharp after a few days’ practice, so hopefully I can take that sharpness onto the course with me. I’ve been here a couple of times before, so I know what to expect.
“It’s not the longest of courses, but you’ve still got to play well and hole putts to shoot low because birdies aren’t just given to you on a plate. If I can get the putter going, hopefully I can shoot some low numbers and get myself into contention come Saturday night.”