Lowdown:
With the majority of the European Tour’s leading men in California to contest the US Open this week, the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC offers the chance for a lower ranked player to make his mark.

It’s a dual ranking event between the European and Challenge Tours with prize money counting towards both circuits. As such, there’s an interesting mix of entrants – European Tour stalwarts trying to add to their Race to Dubai totals, and upcoming Challenge Tour players hoping to make a name for themselves.

Former Ryder Cup player David Howell is on the start sheet, as are his fellow Englishmen David Dixon, Richard Bland and Oliver Wilson.

From the Challenge Tour, last week’s winner Gary Stal of France is looking forward to stepping up a level.

“I knew this was a big opportunity to do well,” he said. “It’s a big event for Challenge Tour players because of the increased prize money.”

The tournament began life in 1997 and became part of the European Tour schedule in 2003 when Brett Rumford took the title. Over the years the event has acted as a springboard for players to move on from, Jose-Filipe Lima, Christian Nilsson and Martin Wiegele are all former champions.

In last year’s tournament Matthew Zions of Australia produced four solid rounds to finish well clear of the field. He ended the week eight-under-par, seven strokes ahead of his nearest rivals.

Venue: Aa Saint Omer GC, Lumbres, France
Date: Jun 14-17
Course stats: par 71, 6,835 yards
Purse: €500,000 Winner: €100,000
Defending Champion: Matthew Zions (-8)

Player Watch:
Richard Bland – The Englishman was right in contention at the Nordea Masters last week until a disappointing final round of 76. He should have taken a number of positives from that performance and may be able to feed off them this week.

Lloyd Saltman – Another man who showed good form in Sweden. His second round of 64 put him right in the mix and, although he faded over the weekend, the talented Scot is a player who looks capable of stepping up a level at any time.

Gary Stal – The winner of last week’s Karnten Golf Open on the Challenge Tour, the Frenchman has moved seventh on the Challenge Tour rankings. He’s only 20-years-old and looks like a star of the future.

Key hole: 17th. At 191 yards it requires a precise iron shot particularly when the pin is at the back of the green. This hole will need to be negotiated with a steady nerve by the leaders on Sunday afternoon.