Justin Walters goes into this weekÂs inaugural Challenge de Catalunya nicely poised in 27th place on the European Challenge Tour Order of Merit, and itÂs a position that reflects the remarkable consistency he has shown in his debut season. The man from Johannesburg has made 13 out of 17 cuts, amassed four top-10 finishes and accumulated nearly Â50,000 in prize money on the Challenge Tour this year Â ample proof that he is far from out of his depth in his efforts abroad.
Yet frustratingly for Walters, his form of late, while steady, has not yielded the strong finish he so desperately craves to catapult him safely into the coveted top 20 on the money list, where, if he stayed steady until the end of the season, would earn him his card on next yearÂs European Tour.
The two fine top-10 finishes he produced at the end of July and beginning of August certainly brought him right into the fray, and results like these, or even victory, will be just what the doctor ordered in the closing five weeks of the season.
And this week seems as good as any for Walters to stake his claim. The Club de Golf La Graiera course in Tarragona sets up slightly forgivingly in terms of length, and measures just 7,200 yards. However, the course will provide something of a surprise package to the players as it is the first time it is being used on tour. With thick rough and a number of blind tee shots, the course presents a stern enough test in itself. Couple this with the fact that the course is prone to strong winds given its proximity to the coast, and you can be assured that low scores will be hard to come by.
In such trying conditions, good ball striking will be of paramount importance, and WaltersÂ statistics very much favour him on this front. The six foot tall South African hits more than 72 percent of greens in regulation, and backs this up well with a driving accuracy of 60 percent.
Signs of good form have also still very much been there the last two tournaments. Only a bad final round at Kazakhstan cost him a great finish, and his 65 in the first round in Toulouse last week showed his ability to go deep.
But form and statistics will count for little when Walters tees it up tomorrow, and producing on the day will be at the forefront of his mind. While many of the top contenders will have one eye on the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in October, the 31 year-old knows full well that a win or a top five finish this week could be the timeliest of breakthroughs and a crucial determinant in his position at the end of the season.
He showed us all at last year’s Royal Swazi Open that he is fully capable of claiming victory, and replicating such a feat with a maiden Challenge Tour title at the par-72 Tarragona course would without doubt elevate him into one of those top-20 order of merit spots that are so tantalisingly within his grasp.