The race to reach The European Tour enters the home strait at the Foshan Open, which marks the Challenge Tour’s return to China following a five-year absence.
With just this week’s US$350,000 event and next week’s US$300,000 National Bank of Oman Golf Classic to play before the €330,000 Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final brings the curtain down on the 2013 season, the intensity will go up another notch at the recently-renovated Foshan Golf Club, in Guangdong Province.
The last tournament to be held in China was the Qingdao Golf Open in September 2008, since when many of the country’s brightest young golfers have announced their arrival on the global stage, most notably when 14 year old Guan Tianlang became the young player to make the cut in a Major at this year’s Masters Tournament.
Shortly after Guan’s extraordinary feat at Augusta National his compatriot Ye Wo-cheng also entered the record books by becoming the youngest player in history to tee up in a European Tour event at the Volvo China Open.
At the venerable age of 13, Ye will now continue his golfing education by making his Challenge Tour debut this week.
In comparison to Ye, the man who leads the Challenge Tour Rankings, 24 year old Italian Andrea Pavan, is something of a veteran.
Pavan is bidding to follow in the footsteps of his friend and fellow Italian Edoardo Molinari, who won the Rankings in 2009, and the Rome native heads to China in fine fettle, having followed up victory in the Open Blue Green Côtes d’Armor Bretagne with a fourth place finish in the Kharkov Superior Cup and a tied seventh finish in the Kazakhstan Open.
Pavan leads by €9,917 from Brooks Koepka but, with the American now established as a force on The European Tour, the biggest threat to his supremacy could come from rising Dutch star Daan Huizing, currently third in the Rankings.
At this stage of the season, there is just as much interest in those players on the cusp of qualifying for the 45-man season finale.
The man currently in possession of the 45th and final berth for the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final is Jason Barnes but, with just €5,855 separating the Englishman from Denmark’s Mark Haastrup in 60th place, there are likely to be dramatic swings in fortunes over the next fortnight.
Players from 21 countries will compete in the inaugural Foshan Open, which will be co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour and the China Golf Association.