MUSCAT: The stage is set for a thrilling climax to the European Challenge Tour season as the Road to Oman reaches its final destination here in Muscat with the eagerly anticipated NBO Golf Classic Grand Final at the stunning Al Mouj Golf.
The top 45 players on the rankings tee off for Wednesday’s opening round and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
As well as competing for the prestigious honour of being crowned NBO Golf Classic Grand Final champion, the players who finish this week’s €420,000 tournament in the top 15 spots on the Road to Oman Rankings will be promoted to play on next season’s European Tour.
Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen heads the rankings after a solid season that has seen him pick up his first win at the Kazahkstan Open as well as posting a further three runner-up finishes. The trilby hat wearing 27 year old’s consistent displays have seen him amass 177,724 points this season and with 71,600 up for grabs this week for the winner of the event, plus a further 30,000 for topping the rankings, victory would see Pulkkanen break the single season record of 251,592 set by Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia in 2015.
“It would be awesome to finish the season as Number One,” said Pulkkanen. “I already know that I will be playing on the European Tour next season so it is not the end of the world if I don’t make it, but it would be a huge achievement for me.
“I need to play well here in Oman as I have not been at my best over the last two tournaments, but after playing so well for most of this season, I am still confident I can finish the job here.”
Looking to hunt the Finn down is Frenchman Julien Guerrier and the two-time winner is hoping to muster good memories of last year’s NBO Golf Classic Grand Final where he finished in a share of third place. Guerrier is currently in second place on the rankings with 133,234 points and victory in Muscat this week could see him crowned Challenge Tour Number One if other results work in his favour.
“I’m delighted to be back in Muscat again for the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final after finishing third here last season,” said Guerrier. “I’ll try to go even better this year and finish the season in style.
“Al Mouj Golf is a great course that I always enjoy playing on. The greens are good, the condition of the course is excellent and you never expect any rain so that’s always a good thing. It’s the perfect place to host the Challenge Tour Grand Final and I’m sure every player will enjoy the course and hospitality.”
Another strong contender for the Road to Oman top spot is the returning Aaron Rai. The Englishman gained automatic promotion to the European Tour after winning his third Challenge Tour title of the season at Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge who is looking to cap a dream season with a strong finish this week.
“It’s great to be back in Muscat for the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final,” said Rai. “We always planned on returning here for the final despite regardless of me achieving the three wins needed to advance onto the European Tour.”
Tuesday’s pro-am signalled the commencement of the week’s golfing action at Al Mouj Golf. Fittingly, the NBO team were the victors in the morning event led by professional Lorenzo Gagli and featuring Hamed al Rumhy, Tareen Ruzani and Abdul Razak with a wonderful combined score of 28 under par. In the afternoon session the Rolex team headed by Adrien Saddier alongside Charanjiv Taneja, Bharath Gopal and Tenzin Tsarong topped the pile with a score of 24 under par.
With 23 different countries represented by the 45 players in the field this week, there will be an international flavour to proceedings at Al Mouj Golf but only one will rise to the top in Oman.