Staying top of European Challenge Tour rankings remains goal for Johnston

Englishman all but assured of moving up to European Tour, but first place is far from secure
Byeong-hun An of South Korea watches his shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 110th US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 16, 2010, in Pebble Beach, California.   Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
Byeong-hun An of South Korea watches his shot during a practice round prior to the start of the 110th US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 16, 2010, in Pebble Beach, California. Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

DUBAI // Leading the European Challenge Tour rankings going into this week’s season finale at Al Badia Golf Club, Andrew Johnston said he would not surrender the top spot without a fight.

The Englishman, twice a winner this year, leads the field going into the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final, where only an unlikely chain of results will see him relinquish the summit.

Johnston’s position has much to do with his form since June, when his victory at the Scottish Hydro Challenge sparked a run of six top 10s in seven second-tier events.

The sequence included a win at the La Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in July and a runner-up finish and a third place in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, respectively – two of the circuit’s most lucrative tournaments.

An injury derailed Johnston’s plans to compete in the European Tour’s Portugal Masters last month and then last week’s penultimate Challenge Tour event, the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic.

Fully recovered, Johnston seeks to use his first visit to Dubai to clinch the season crown when the €350,000 (Dh1.6 million) grand final tees off on Wednesday.

“It’s really important for me to be the Challenge Tour No 1 at the end of this week,” he said. “My goal is to finish top. If you told me at the start of this year I would be top of the rankings going into the grand final, I wouldn’t have believed you.

“The injury’s not too bad. I definitely feel I can play some good golf out here – my game feels good – so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got to try and prepare well, do my best and give myself the best chance for this week, and see what happens.”

Johnston’s chances are pretty strong, given he leads the rankings by €46,318 over Moritz Lampert. To stand any chance of exchanging places with Johnston, the German, a three-time winner this season, would need to register a fourth victory and hope his rival finishes down the field. Mathematically, Byeong-hun An, Sam Hutsby and Mark Tullo, placed third to fifth in the standings, can also pip Johnston to the overall title.

Second-place finish hands White overall Mena Tour title

Lee Corfield held his nerve coming down the home stretch to defend his title at the Mena Tour Championship at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club on Tuesday.

One shot in front at the start of the final round, the Englishman closed with a 66 to reach 14 under, three shots ahead of compatriot Joshua White with four players, headed by Scotland’s Tom Buchanan, sharing third place on a score of 10 ­under.

The runner-up finish was good enough for White to claim the title of 2014 Mena Golf Tour champion with US$28,471 (Dh104,500) in earnings as he upstaged fellow Englishmen Luke Joy ($27,066) and Zane Scotland (25,604), who had occupied the first two places in the standings before the action began in Al Ain.

Corfield credited staying calm under pressure as helping him seal victory at an event where he had led at the end of each day.

“With so many players bunched at the top, I knew it’s going to be close, but I concentrated on one shot at a time, as if each was the first shot of the day,” said Corfield, 32. “Also, I was a bit lucky with the putter and holed some nice putts at the right time.”

White said of his success: “I didn’t set any goals coming to this tournament, but I am quite pleased with the way things turned out for me.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: November 5, 2014 04:00 AM

SHARE

Editor's Picks
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one