Race to Grand Final intensifies in Lyon

10/1/2012 3:14:05 PM
Pelle Edberg  (Getty Images)
Pelle Edberg (Getty Images)
With just three tournaments remaining before the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final, there is a huge amount at stake for many of the players travelling to France for this week’s ALLIANZ Open de Lyon at Golf du Gouverneur.

Only the Challenge Tour’s top 45 qualify to play at the season finale in southern Italy and there are several high profile players hovering around the cut-off mark and in need of at least one good result this month to be in with a shout of claiming a European Tour card for 2013.

Three-time European Tour winner Nick Dougherty passed up the chance to play in the high profile Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, which he won in 2007, this week as he looks to better his season-best fourth place finishes at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Classic and English Challenge.

Dougherty currently lies in 37th place in the Challenge Tour Rankings but a win in the final weeks of the 2012 campaign could launch him into contention for one of the 20 European Tour cards on offer at the season’s conclusion.

Another former European Tour player, Pelle Edberg, is also in need of a flourishing finish to 2012 if he is to return to the big time next year as the Swede lies in 51st place in the Rankings.

Alvaro Velasco, the 2010 Challenge Tour Number One, is one spot behind Edberg in the Rankings and will be hoping to bounce back with a good result in Lyon this week after being forced to withdraw two days before the lucrative Kazakhstan Open due to a wrist injury.

Jeppe Huldahl, the winner of the 2009 Wales Open, missed a perfect opportunity to take a big leap up the Rankings having led after the opening two days of the Challenge de Catalunya, which was reduced to 54 holes following heavy rain on Saturday, before falling to 11th place with a one over par final round of 73.

That left the Dane right on the brink in terms of sealing a place at the season finale at San Domenico Golf as he is currently in 44th place.

An extremely strong field assembles at the central France venue with 11 winners on the Challenge Tour this year present, including Frenchmen Alexandre Kaleka, who returns to the venue of his incredible professional debut victory in 2009, and home favourite Gary Stal.

Lyon native Stal has been a revelation this year with two wins in his rookie season and the 20 year old would seal a fairytale journey to The European Tour with a win this week.

There are four young homegrown amateurs in the field and they will be hoping to follow in footsteps of Julien Brun, who became the sixth amateur to win on the Challenge Tour with his victory in the recent ALLIANZ Golf Open Toulouse Metropole.