Muscat: Sam Walker sealed his first European Challenge Tour title in four years in the Vierumӓki Finnish Challenge and has guaranteed his spot in the season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, which takes place in Oman at the spectacular Almouj Golf, Muscat, from Wednesday, November 2 to Saturday, November 5.
The Englishman’s dominant performance helped him clinch the tournament by two strokes over four competitors, which has consequently catapulted him from 90th to 25th in the Road to Oman after winning 28,800 points. There are only nine tournaments left before the players compete in Muscat. Walker struggled last season as he missed out on a 2016 European Tour card after finishing 44th on the demanding course. He will be hoping for a different outcome this year.
“It’s great to be back in the winner’s circle, especially given that I’m old enough to be half these boys’ dad,” said the 38 year old. “The top 15 is now within my sights, but the last five or six events are big events so if I get myself prepared for that then maybe I can win again and get on the European Tour again.”
There is a new leader at the summit of the Road to Oman Rankings as Frenchman Romain Langasque leapfrogged Englishman Jordan L Smith into top spot after finishing joint runner-up with Scott Henry, Darius Van Driel and Julien Guerrier in Finland. Henry climbs to 33rd from 55th, Van Driel rises from 50th to 29th and Guerrier surges from 53rd to 32nd.
Smith had been leading the Rankings for numerous weeks but won’t be too disheartened because he still has a fantastic chance of earning a playing card for next season’s European Tour International Schedule by finishing in the top 15 after the grand finale in Muscat which has a lucrative €400,000 prize fund. In addition, the top three players will also win a share of the €60,000 Road to Oman Bonus Pool.
Three Challenge Tour competitors were called up to represent their countries in the Rio 2016 Olympics this weekend, in which 25 of the 60-man field have honed their skills on Europe’s top developmental golf tour. Espen Kofstad, Ryan Fox and José-Filipe Lima represented Norway, New Zealand and Portugal and all finished in joint 44th. They will all be hoping that the experience of competing against some of the world’s elite players like 2000 Challenge Tour champion Henrik Stenson, as well as now Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose will be a more regular occurrence next season with the earning of a European Tour card.