The stage is set for a thrilling climax to the European Challenge Tour season as the Road to Oman reaches its final destination 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 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.
One week to go
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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.
“It’s brilliant to be back playing on this course after competing here in the Challenge Tour season-ender last year because it’s always nice returning for a second time and seeing it in a slightly different way from your experiences. You get to recognise your own development from this stage last season which is cool in that aspect.
“This is a wonderful tournament to sign the Road to Oman off and catch up with a few familiar faces so I’m sure it will be a nice week.
“It would be an amazing achievement to win this weekend and top the Road to Oman as it but you just have to try and not get carried away and treat the week like you would any other tournament in a professional manner.”
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.
The opening round of the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final gets underway at Al Mouj Golf at 8.00am on Wednesday.
Justin Rose has moved to third place in the Race to Dubai rankings after mounting a stunning comeback to win the HSBC Champions in China by two shots.
Rose began the final round eight shots behind Johnson and was still six adrift at the turn, but fired five birdies in a back nine of 31 to complete a closing 67, with Johnson slumping to a 77.
At 14 under par, Rose finished two shots ahead of Ryder Cup partner Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Johnson, who had started the day with a six-shot lead in pursuit of a record third World Golf Championship victory this year.
The 37-year-old’s tenth European Tour victory of his career sees his points tally for the season swell to just under three million, putting him only 190,827 points short of Sergio Garcia who is in second place.
The result means Rose now has a serious chance to challenge Tommy Fleetwood for the top spot in the rankings when the top 60 players in the Race to Dubai meet at the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates next month.
“It kind of gives me a realistic chance now, if I was to have a special end to the season with Turkey and Dubai,” added Rose, who topped the money list in 2007.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve won, or at least it feels like that. I’ve won every year since 2010, if you include the Olympics last year. I’ve left it late this year but it feels amazing.”
Henrik Stenson – who finished joint runner-up in China – now moves from 18th to 11th spot in the Race to Dubai rankings with a season tally of 1,723,903 points.
Meanwhile defending DP World Tour Championship winner Matthew Fitzpatrick also moved up the rankings with a top ten finish in China.
The Sheffield native secured ninth place to move up one spot to 13th .
Tyrrell Hatton has entered the top five of the Race to Dubai rankings after securing his third European Tour title of his career and second in a row at the Italian Open.
The 26-year-old birdied the final hole to back up last weekend’s successful defence of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title with the third Tour win of his career.
For the second Sunday in succession Ross Fisher piled the pressure on his compatriot Hatton, but had to settle for second, tied with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
“It’s amazing to win one but to win back-to-back and defend in two weeks is unbelievable,” world number 22 Hatton told europeantour.com.
“Although I found it hard to believe, I tried to stay patient. In the end, I guess I got my reward.
“The end goal is to get as high as possible up the world rankings. Obviously the last two weeks have helped a lot.”
The victory saw the Englishman claim 990,398 points, taking him from 11th to fifth place in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings with a season tally of 2,443,181 points.
He’ll now be in contention for the $5million Race to Dubai bonus pool when the top 60 players in the European Tour tee-off at the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 16-19.
Tommy Fleetwood also finished tied for sixth to ensure that he remains at the head of the Rankings with 3,974,247 points.
Sergio Garcia is in second with a season-tally of 2,851,251 points and his young compatriot Jon Rahm sits in third spot on 2,840,693.