Mark Tullo carded a stunning four under par 68 to move into the first round lead at the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club, where there were already plenty of big moves in the chase for the 15 European Tour cards on offer. The in-form Tullo fired six birdies and an eagle to move one shot clear at the summit, continuing an astounding run of form for the Chilean which has yielded five top tens in his last six events including back-to-back tied third finishes in the two events prior to the Challenge Tour’s season finale in Dubai.
The 36 year old started the week sixth place in the Challenge Tour Rankings but the title of Challenge Tour Number One is still within his reach if he were to emerge victorious at the breathtaking Al Badia Golf Club and other results went his way.
Tullo was delighted with his round, which set a new course record after the course was subject to big changes since last year’s inaugural edition, and is feeling more confident with his game than ever before.
“It was a good day out there. I had a couple of mistakes out on the greens but you make some and you miss some. It was a solid round. I hit it good off the tee and hit my irons pretty close,” he said.
“It wasn’t the easiest of days, the wind was blowing a little bit and there were some tricky shots but I played really solid.”
Tullo has already earned enough prize money this season to guarantee that he will be playing on The European Tour next season but he revealed that he has no intention of taking his foot off the gas this week.
“You tend to relax when you’ve secured your cards but I’m a very competitive kind of guy and I try to do the best that I can every tournaments, wherever I am in the Rankings,” he continued.
“Obviously it does help that guys in my situation are more relaxed and we can go at every pin. It does make a difference to being outside the cut line.
“Once I reached that number which secured my European Tour card, I just wanted to keep on going and I could have been up there challenging for the title the last three weeks so I’m right there. I’m just trying to play the best golf I can.
“I have had great momentum for the last two months and it’s just pedal to the metal for me. It’s been a long stretch but a positive one so all the sacrifices are worth it.
“A win would be a great way to finish the season but if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t, I’m very happy with what I’ve done this year. But like I said, I’m very competitive and I will be trying my best this week.”
Max Orrin, who secured his spot in this week’s field courtesy of his win at the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic last week, was another player to keep riding the wave of momentum as he fired an opening round three under 69 to lie in a share of second place with Lasse Jensen, and Oliver Farr.
“I’ve obviously got no experience of a win and then playing the next week but it’s been fun and difficult at the same time,” said 20 year old former Walker Cup player Orrin.
“It’s nice that it was so widely recognised but it can be difficult to get used to all the attention and the cameras. I started off today with a birdie, which really calmed me down.
“I took my chances after that and carried on from last week, holing a few putts. It’s just a course that you need to be patient on. The front nine is very difficult and I managed to keep on level par on the front nine and then holed a few putts coming in.
“It’s still another week and another tournament I’m trying to do well in or, if I have a chance, try and win. Another win would be great but ultimately the most important thing is that even if I come 15th, I get in the top 15 in the Rankings. I don’t know what will get me in there but I just have to keep playing and hopefully it’s enough at the end of the week.”
Harrold Wilson, who was out first in the morning having just scraped into the field at No.44 in the Rankings prior to the start of play, put in a terrific display with a two under 70 to lie in a share of fifth with Edouard Espana and Benjamin Herbert.
“I dodged the wind a bit this morning,” said Wilson. “It was windy on the back nine but there were a few holes on the front nine that were quite hard, a few lads are over par on them, and I will have to deal with the wind tomorrow probably because I won’t be out as early.
“I’ve got to win here. I think everybody outside the top 30 probably needs a win. We’ll see though.”