Saturday, November 05, 2016

Jordan Smith with the trophy for topping the Challenge Tour rankings. Getty Images(c).

Ritthammer wins Challenge Tour finale in Oman but Jordan Smith is No. 1

Bernd Ritthammer sealed a third victory of the year on a day of high drama at the European Challenge Tour’s season finale, the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, at Al Mouj Golf in Oman.
The German’s triumph was not quite enough to overtake Jordan Smith as Road to Oman Rankings winner but few would begrudge the Englishman his prize after a season of outstanding consistency.
With birdies and bogeys dropping simultaneously out on course, and the most competitive season in memory, the projected make-up of the top 16 was in doubt until the final putt dropped, with France’s Joël Stalter ultimately taking the last European Tour spot at the expense of compatriot Adrien Saddier.
Ritthammer had looked in total control for much of the day, moving four shots clear on the front nine, but a faltering back nine gave Jens Dantorp – for whom only a victory would suffice for graduation – a chance to pull level.

Ultimately a bogey on the last derailed the Swede’s chances, and Ritthammer was able to secure one final win with a regulation par on the last and a 21 under par total, much to his delight and relief.
“I haven’t got used to it yet but it’s a pretty good feeling,” said the 29 year old. “I actually struggled quite a bit today, especially with my long game, but I lost a bit of confidence on the back nine.
“My putting saved me out there, I was able to scramble well and made some crucial putts, and I am just so happy to have got it done – it’s important, it gives me a slightly higher ranking than I would have had without the win, which might be crucial to get into some bigger events next season.
“The pressure definitely increased as the week went on. I expected it to be pretty tough today, but I started well, then a bogey on nine led to a few more mistakes, and I was feeling the pressure even more and grinding to get it done.
“I knew Jens needed to win because I played with him in the last two rounds, so when I saw him climbing the leaderboard I knew what was happening for him and I feel really sorry for him because he had a great week and he would have deserved to win and to graduate.
“We’ve been talking about the Rankings all week, and my group today of Ryan Fox and Matthieu Pavon and me all knew we were safe, and how good it is not to be on the bubble – we were all in a good position no matter what the outcome was here.
“I know it can be very intense on this final day because I had a similar thing in the Grand Final two years ago, so I know how those guys feel and I feel sorry for everyone who just missed out, but that only means they are really close and they will make it soon.
“I’m looking forward to getting some rest in the next few weeks, putting the clubs away for a while, and try to be fresh going down to Leopard Creek in December with this confidence I will definitely be taking with me.”
Dantorp’s bogey on 18 was the only blemish in a sensational seven under par 65, the low round of the day, while a similar fate befell Adrien Saddier, another on the bubble coming into the week in Muscat.
The Frenchman needed to finish in third outright to earn enough points for a top 16 spot but found a greenside bunker – as did Dantorp – and failed to get up-and-down, dropping into a share of third with compatriots Julien Guerrier and Pavon, to miss out by just 732 points.
Ultimately, the 16 who occupied the European Tour spots coming into the week finished in them, with a little bit of reordering, but that did not lessen the spectacle of another thrilling conclusion to a Challenge Tour season.
1 RITTHAMMER Bernd GER -21 67 64 67 69 0 0 267 € 68,250.
2 DANTORP Jens SWE -20 68 65 70 65 0 0 268 € 44,800
3 GUERRIER Julien FRA -18 68 70 64 68 0 0 270  € 21,666 
 3 PAVON Matthieu FRA -18 66 69 65 70 0 0 270  € 21,666 
3 SADDIER Adrien FRA -18 69 70 65 66 0 0 270 € 21,666 
6 FOX Ryan NZL -16 68 69 64 71 0 0 272 € 16,000 
T7 BJÖRK Alexander SWE -12 69 63 72 72 0 0 276 € 13,626 
T7 PORTEOUS Garrick ENG -12 68 71 67 70 0 0 276 € 13,626 
T7 WALKER Sam ENG -12 70 68 71 67 0 0 276 € 13,626 
T10 ARMITAGE Marcus ENG -11 71 67 71 68 0 0 277 € 11,125 
T10 KNAPPE Alexander GER -11 72 68 67 70 0 0 277 € 11,125
T12 KARLSSON Anton SWE -10 68 72 72 66 0 0 278 € 8,843 
T12 KING Gary ENG -10 70 69 63 76 0 0 278 € 8,843 
T12 LAMPERT Moritz GER -10 74 68 67 69 0 0 278 € 8,843
T15 ORRIN Max ENG -9 70 71 71 67 0 0 279 € 6,800 
T15 STARK Oscar SWE -9 69 72 68 70 0 0 279 € 6,800
T17 ANGLES Pep ESP -8 66 70 71 73 0 0 280 € 5,363
T17 HEISELE Sebastian GER -8 70 66 72 72 0 0 280 € 5,363 
T17 SMITH Jordan L ENG -8 68 69 72 71 0 0 280 € 5,363 
T20 STEWART Duncan SCO -7 71 71 72 67 0 0 281 € 4,660 
T20 TILEY Steven ENG -7 72 69 70 70 0 0 281 € 4,660 .
T29 HENRY Scott SCO -4 75 69 70 70 0 0 284 € 3,306
Jordan Smith clinches Road to Oman Rankings title with top-20 finish in final event of season

Jordan Smith capped off a stellar season on the European Challenge Tour with a top-20 finish at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final – which secured him the 2016 Road to Oman Rankings title.  
The Englishman arrived on Europe’s top developmental tour eight months ago as an Order of Merit champion – after topping the satellite EuroPro Tour’s Rankings in 2015 – and he carried on his winning form in Egypt in only his second start of the season.
The 23 year old came close to further victories in the Czech Republic and in Kazakhstan, but would have to wait until the penultimate event of the season in Ras Al Khaimah before he could add a second Challenge Tour trophy to his mantelpiece.
With seven top-ten finishes and more than €200,000 earned in prize money, the man from Bath joins an illustrious list of Rankings winners including Andrew Johnston, Edoardo Molinari, Henrik Stenson and Thomas Bjørn, among others.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I am sure when it is all announced and I get the trophy in my hands it will hit home,” he said.
“I didn’t play my best this week but I just went out there to enjoy it. I had my mum, my coach and my auntie all out supporting me and it has been great to be able to have them here.
“Walking off the green it was emotional, mainly from my Mum, and it was really nice to be able to have her here to when I finished.
“I was over the moon to finish top of the Order of Merit on the EuroPro Tour last year, and I never would have imagined I would go on to do what I have on the Challenge Tour this season.
“My aim at the start of the year was to keep my Challenge Tour card, and now I have a European Tour card, so now I can go out and play next year and have fun.”
Smith, who finished the season with 209,985 points, fought off challenges from Bernd Ritthammer, Alexander Knappe and Ryan Fox, who all pushed him close to topping the Rankings.
Having sewn up the top spot on Europe’s top developmental tour, the young Englishman is confident that he can go on and compete on the European Tour next season.
“The Challenge Tour has definitely prepared me for next season,” he said. “Travelling inside and outside of Europe and living out of a suitcase is something that has taken some getting used to, but I feel ready for next year.
“I like to think that I will be able to go out and compete on the European Tour next year, and hopefully win.
“Over the season I have picked up a lot of friends. When you are going out for dinner and staying with each other week in week out, you really start to get along – that camaraderie has been a big part of this year's enjoyment.”



+They included Duncan Stewart.



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