Stage set for season-ending Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final

Sport360 staff 09:39 31/10/2018
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Joachim B. Hansen is looking to become the first Dane since Thomas Bjørn in 1995 to finish the season as European Challenge Tour number one by claiming victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final.

The 28-year-old goes into the season-ending event with a lead of 47,024 points over second-placed Victor Perez after an excellent campaign which has included two victories, five top-fives and nine top-ten finishes.

“I’m feeling really good heading into the Grand Final,” said Hansen who won his first Challenge Tour title at the Turkish Airlines Challenge earlier this year.

“The goal this week is to win again and to stay at the top of the Rankings. This has been the season of my life. Everything in my game has been so steady and everything has improved, I’ve also managed to keep so calm and cool throughout the year.

“To be in this position is great as you do feel relaxed. The guys lying around the top-15 know that they need a good result here to save their season next year, or even their career.”

With 184,260 points already banked, Hansen can also make more history in the Middle East. A victory would see him break the record for the largest points haul in a single Challenge Tour season – Ricardo Gouveia is the current holder of that title after he earned 251,592 points when he topped the Rankings in 2015.

Meanwhile, Perez comes into the tournament in scintillating form with seven consecutive top-20 finishes including a win at the last Challenge Tour tournament, the Foshan Open, which saw him surge from 16th to second in the Rankings.

“I am delighted to be here and it’s a big change from last year,” said the Frenchman. “To go into the final last year in 16th was a very different challenge as now I start the week in second place and there is a lot on the line – I can win the Order of Merit, I just need to take down JB.”

Kalle Samooja is also in the hunt to be named Challenge Tour No.1 and currently lies in third place on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah.

The Finn secured his European Tour status earlier this month thanks to a win at the Hainan Open but will be hoping to put the icing on the cake by topping the Rankings following the Al Hamra showdown.

“After the win in Hainan, this year has been ten out of ten,” said Samooja. “Before that I’d had a lot of top tens and had been close on a couple of occasions, and now I can’t wait for the future. I have to win this week to have a chance to finish the season as number one, but it is a similar course to the one in Hainan and hopefully that will play to my advantage.”

As well as the battle to be named Challenge Tour No.1 there are 15 coveted European Tour cards to be won for those that finish in the top-15 of the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings following the tournament.

With only 3,735 points separating Road to Ras Al Khaimah Number 15 Tom Murray and Oliver Wilson, who currently sits in 18th position, it will go down to the wire at the stunning Al Hamra Golf Club.

Along with Wilson, every player competing in the 45-man field can secure a European Tour card by triumphing in the Grand Final. Antoine Rozner, the 45th and final man into the event, arrives in the United Arab Emirates 41,721 points away from 15th place with 72,000 points awarded to the winner.

The four-day tournament begins at Al Hamra Golf Club at 8.00am on Wednesday and is free to enter for spectators.

OSN Sports 3 will broadcast a highlights programme every night of the tournament starting at 22:30 with two repeats the following day.

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