The Challenge Tour finale enters a new era as it moves to the glamourous United Arab Emirates city for the first time, and the awe-inspiring skyline from the stunning Al Badia Golf Club will provide a fitting backdrop for the drama that is sure to follow this week.
Italian Andrea Pavan, a former winner of the Grand Final, sits atop the Rankings heading into the season-ender, but he will not be sitting easy as a number of ambitious young guns and experienced older heads attempt to steal his thunder and finish top of the pile.
While the race for the prestigious title of Challenge Tour Number One might catch many an eye, there is a lot more at stake for the majority of the field at the Dubai Festival City venue this week.
At the beginning of the season, every Challenge Tour player tees it up with one dream in mind – claiming one of the prized 15 cards for The European Tour. Now, it all boils down to one week and who has the guts, the unyielding ambition and the game to seal the deal when it matters most.
Nacho Elvira, winner of The Foshan Open in China two weeks ago, lies in 15th place on €72,830 and with a winner’s prize of €56,650 on offer this week, every player down to 45th placed Julien Guerrier (currently on €36,110) knows a win would be enough to fulfil their European Tour dream.
Every man has a chance and that point was emphasised in dramatic fashion last season when Englishman James Busby arrived to the Grand Final as the last man in the field, in 45th spot.
He launched a late assault on the leaderboard and in one afternoon, his career was turned upside down as a tied runner-up finish earned him an unlikely rookie season on The European Tour.
The winner of last week’s National Bank of Oman Golf Classic, Roope Kakko, also proved what can be achieved as his first victory as a professional (his previous Challenge Tour win coming as an amateur) earned him a guaranteed place in the top 15 on the Rankings – moving to sixth from 17th - and a return to the top tier.
Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard was the only player to leap into the all-important top 45 at last week’s penultimate event in Oman, thanks to a runner-up finish, and the 22 year old will be hoping to complete an incredible two weeks by making another climb into the top 15 with a big performance in Dubai.
The inaugural Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club provides a fittingly glamourous end to celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of the Challenge Tour this year.
The tour has grown in strength and stature every year since its inception and to finish the 2013 campaign at such a spectacular venue as Dubai Festival City and Al Badia indicates how far it has come.
The event will also mark the beginning of a ‘Festival of Golf’ in the city as The European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship, Dubai hosts some of the world’s greatest players in two weeks’ time, before the emirate also hosts the final tournament of the Ladies European Tour season in December.
The Challenge Tour Grand Final has proven a real breeding ground for some of the world’s best golfers, with Thomas Björn, Nicolas Colsaerts, Martin Kaymer, Edoardo Molinari, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson having all played in the event before going on to worldwide fame.
Indeed, current Race to Dubai leader and World Number Four Stenson is a former winner of the event, his victory in Cuba in 2000 proving enough to secure the title of Challenge Tour Number One that season.