The Challenge Tour Grand Final celebrates its 25th anniversary with a return to European soil and an arrival at its new home in Mallorca.
The season-ending event brings together the best 45 golfers from this season and as they get ready to take on Club de Golf Alcanada in Mallorca, we take a look back at the rich golfing history of this pressure-packed tournament.
The Grand Final was established in 1995 and originally played in Portugal, where Spain’s Francis Valera claimed a one-stroke victory to secure his graduation after defeating a strong field of future European Tour winners, including triumphant 2018 European Ryder Cup Captain, Thomas Bjørn.
Bjørn’s promotion-winning campaign on the Challenge Tour was surely a sign of things to come, as the future 15-time European Tour winner finished in a tie for eighth at Quinta do Peru to secure his place atop the Rankings, becoming the first Dane to be crowned Challenge Tour Number One.
Every hole matters
The Grand Final is truly unique in that it is not always about the winner, but rather, about an elite field on the cusp of realising their dream, that is, if they can manage four solid rounds with it all on the line.
Last year, Pedro Figueiredo did just that. Starting the week outside the top 15, the Portuguese golfer needed a strong finish to move up the Rankings and secure a European Tour card. Although he did not contend for the title, he still found himself facing a must-make putt on the final hole of the tournament and the season.
The converted 15-foot birdie putt moved him from a share of 17th place into a tie for 13th on the Grand Final leaderboard and earned him an additional 3,000 Rankings points. That result edged him 604 points ahead of Tom Murray in the race for the 15th and final European Tour card.
With less than 12,000 points separating 15th and 25th on this year’s Road to Mallorca Rankings, it is not a matter of if, but rather who will face a must-make putt to end their season.
You might recognise the name of the Grand Final winner from 2000. Henrik Stenson finished on 18 under par at Varadero Golf Club in Cuba to claim his third win in a Challenge Tour campaign that more closely resembles a highlights reel.
The Swede was red-hot when he arrived at the season-ending tournament and looked to polish off a year that featured two wins, two runner-up finishes, two tied thirds and two other top five finishes.
He also arrived in Varadero with unfinished business. A year earlier, the future Open Champion had carded rounds of 70-70-69-70 for an agonising tied second place finish — failing to earn full playing privileges on the European Tour as a result.
Stenson got his revenge that next year, breaking 70 in every round on his way to the winner’s circle, using his success to blossom into one of the world’s best players of the next two decades.
Stenson beat his fellow future Major Champion Trevor Immelman at the 2000 Grand Final in Cuba, but they are not the only Major winners to have come through the final event.
World Number One Brooks Koepka played the tournament in 2012, his first season on the Challenge Tour, but was unable to graduate to the European Tour that year after a disappointing 31st place finish. The American did not have to wait long to punch his ticket to the European Tour though — he secured his card by winning three times before the halfway mark of the season in 2013.
Another former World Number One, Martin Kaymer, also played the Grand Final in Italy. The German put together an impressive season that year, with his eight starts being highlighted by two wins, a second, two third place finishes and a tied fourth, which went with his tied 13th place finish at the Grand Final to secure his spot on the European Tour.