Tapio Pulkkanen is hoping to cap off an excellent breakthrough season at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final by finishing the year as European Challenge Tour Number One.
The Finn has been in outstanding form on the 2017 Road to Oman, winning once and finishing as a runner-up three times to arrive in Oman 44,000 points clear of his nearest challenger, France’s Julien Guerrier, at the top of the Rankings.
The 27 year old topped the Order of Merit on the satellite Nordic Golf League in 2015 and is looking to make it two Rankings wins in three seasons.
With the likes of Thomas Bjørn, Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, and most recently Jordan Smith, all previously claiming the title of Challenge Tour Number One, Pulkkanen now wants to add his name to that illustrious list.
“It would be awesome to finish the season as Number One,” he said. “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 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.
“I played here four years ago and although I didn’t do too well I really like the course. It is in excellent condition this year, it is one of the best courses we play on, and I think it will be a great way to end what has been a brilliant season for me.
“It is going to be a completely new world for me next season. But after seeing what last year’s graduates have done it gives you a lot of confidence that you can go on and achieve what they have done.
“I was playing against guys like Jordan Smith and Dylan Frittelli one year ago, and I think that I have the game to compete with the likes of those players.
“Winning and finishing as a runner-up many times this season has definitely made me feel a lot more confident going forward.
“It is also great for my home country to have another Finn on the European Tour. I am going to ask Mikko Korhonen and Mikko Ilonen for their advice as I am sure they will help me a lot next season.”
Standing in Pulkkanen’s way this week will be Aaron Rai. The Englishman secured automatic promotion to the European Tour in July after three wins in the first half of the season.
Making his first appearance on the Challenge Tour in four months at Al Mouj Golf this week, Rai is also upbeat about his chances of finishing the season on top of the Rankings.
“It would obviously be a very nice thing,” he said. “To win any Order of Merit, you have to play consistently throughout a very long period and have a very good year to do so, so to top the Road to Oman would be an amazing thing.
“In terms of actually having it as a goal, it’s not a massive goal going into the week. It’s all about doing the same things you always do and if that happens, it would be an amazing thing, but I’m certainly not thinking about that this week.”
Plenty of drama is guaranteed in Muscat with all of the 45 players competing in with a chance of finishing the week inside the top 15 – who will all earn European Tour cards for next season.
Germany’s Sebastian Heisele currently occupies 15th place with 82,619 points but has Scotland’s Bradley Neil and France’s Victor Perez hot on his heels in 16th and 17th with 80,468 and 80,200 points respectively.