It is make or break time on the Challenge Tour this week as the season reaches its climax at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in southern Italy, where the top 45 players in the Rankings will be gunning for glory.
There will be numerous battles within the €330,000 tournament, with several players aiming to topple Kristoffer Broberg at the top of the Rankings, as well as an intense fight to finish inside the top 21 in order to earn a European Tour card for next season.
The reason for the additional place this year is due to the form of Sweden’s Magnus A Carlsson, who is fourth on the Rankings going into the Grand Final, but who has already secured his European Tour playing privileges for 2013 thanks to some sterling performances on the main Tour this season, where he currently lies 94th in The Race to Dubai.
Carlsson can still win the Rankings but it is his fellow Swede Broberg who has been the story of 2012, coming from the Nordic League and winning four times in six appearances on the Challenge Tour – his first victory coming in his second event.
The third triumph, in the Rolex Trophy, which followed wins in the Finnish Challenge and the Norwegian Challenge, earned him instant promotion to The European Tour, but he returned to Challenge Tour duty last week and won the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Challenge hosted by Royal Golf Club to overtake Gary Lockerbie at the head of the Rankings.
“The goal is now to win the Rankings, and there’s no reason why I can’t do it because I’m playing so well,” said Broberg. “It has been an absolute dream to win four times. I just have fun out there and enjoy it.”
Lockerbie, however, is not concentrating on the Rankings this week, rather simply feeling content that he has secured his return to The European Tour, having lost his card in 2010.
“It would be nice to finish top, but I’ve done what I needed to do this year already,” said the 29 year old, who is currently third. “It’s going to be a bit of a shoot-out because it’s very close at the top with four of us separated by not very much money.
“There’s a lot of money to play for this week as well, but I think we’re probably all of the same opinion that we’ve secured our cards for next year and that’s the job done. It takes a lot of the pressure off us. The guys down in 21st, 22nd place or 11th or 16th will have a lot more pressure on them. You really want to be in that top ten.”
Indeed, any of the top ten can win the Rankings with victory over the par 71, 7031-yard San Domenico layout.
Andreas Hartø, in second place, is one of those, and he said: “It’s definitely a goal to win the Rankings. Thomas Bjørn is the only other Danish guy to have done it so to follow in his footsteps would be great.”
Further down, Raymond Russell, Justin Walters and Lasse Jensen, 22nd, 23rd and 24th respectively, will be doing all they can to move up to challenge those above them – specifically Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik in 21st – while Daniel Brooks will be hoping to build on his impressive form in Denmark last week. The Englishman rose from 24th to 16th by finishing tied third.
Considering the gap between Vancsik and Jensen is a mere €3,957, it is definitely all still to play for.