Ahead of the season-ending Final Swing, where three of the closing four events will benefit from increased Official World Golf Ranking points in 2014, europeantour.com’s Nick Totten looks at just how the great and good of the European Challenge Tour have fared on the global list so far this campaign.
Professional golf is governed by lists in every facet of the game, with exemption categories and orders of merit governing how and where players can tee it up around the globe, but there are few as definitive or influential within the sport as the World Rankings.
Since Challenge Tour events were awarded an official status within the global list, countless graduates have reaped the rewards of the jump start that points earned on the second tier has given them, with many of them going on to build on that haul as they find their feet in the Race to Dubai.
This season has been no different for all of the players who currently find themselves in the top 15 spots on the second tier’s Rankings, with all of them having improved their position within the world of golf from the first week of January to now, and at an average of 584 spots per player.
Quite a hefty improvement, which is in part to do with the fact that players on the circuit have often just turned professional or are gradually working their way up the ladder when they first come to the Challenge Tour, but on a list where only 1,555 positions actually exist, an improvement of more than a third is very impressive.
Proof then of the gains that can be made, and no man is ranked higher right now than two time winner this year Andrew Johnston, with the current number one’s form having seen him climb 490 places to a career best 124th in the world the week after his runner-up finish at the Kazakhstan Open a fortnight ago Moritz Lampert has gone one better than the Englishman in winning three times in 2014, and that has seen him jump a heady 854 spots so far this season, and at 162nd he is just ahead of Byeong-hun An (175th) and Benjamin Hebert (179th).
Four Challenge Tour players are therefore inside the top 200 in the world, ahead of European Tour winners like Nicolas Colsaerts (185th), Morten Ørum Madsen (191st), Michael Hoey (194th) and Raphaël Jacquelin (200th), which acts as proof of the strength in depth that the Challenge Tour has developed in recent years.
As a breeding ground for the next generation of top talent – or as the motto goes, Where Heroes Are Made – it is an impressive metric by which to measure how far the Tour has come, something which can similarly be attributed to a number of players this season.
Take for example Florian Fritsch who has risen 1,292 places since the first week of the year to a career high 215th after a play-off loss at the EMC Golf Challenge Open last time out, while tournament winners Oliver Farr (321st) and Antonio Hortal (390th) have both jumped into the top 400 in the world thanks to increases of 1,186 and 1,117 respectively.
Another stark example of what can be achieved by a Challenge Tour player is the recent fairy tale story of Oliver Wilson, who having spent his season on the second tier, has just claimed a maiden Race to Dubai triumph at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship that has helped see him climb 346 spots since January to a resurgent 156th.
With an extra point on offer to the field in comparison to the same three tournaments last year, the Foshan Open, National Bank of Oman Golf Classic and the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club are all set to play a key role in defining where a number of players will finish the year on the World Ranking.
Throw in the addition of the Shankai Classic presented by IDG as the first event of the Final Swing, which will offer up plenty of Ranking points in its own right, and these final four events of the season are not only set to define players’ standing within the Challenge Tour ranks as 2014 draws to a close, but also how they measure up against the global elite going forward.
Johnston wins again
July 27, 2014
Johnston Crowned Scottish Hydro Champion
June 29, 2014
Johnston top of the Challenge Tour Order of Merit after 2nd place finish at the Kazakhstan Open