Only last month Joakim Lagergren was outside the top 100 on the European Challenge Tour Rankings and struggling to find the form that had seem him spend the previous two years on The Race to Dubai, but now all that has changed ahead of this week’s Kazakhstan Open.
Thanks to a maiden triumph a few weeks ago at the Northern Ireland Open Challenge in association with Maui Jim Sunglasses, the 22 year old Swede has turned his season around, and is subsequently within striking distance of a third season among European golf’s elite.
Lagergren believes he has not played that bad in 2014, but has just struggled to put 72 holes together in one week, that is until a superb 62 in the opening round at Galgorm Castle proved the perfect foundation on which to build his title tilt.
It would not be plain sailing over the closing three rounds as he surrendered a five stroke lead on the final day, but a closing birdie when it mattered most saw him take the title.
With €72,000 first prize up for grabs this week at Zhailjau Golf Resort, this would therefore be the ideal place for the Swede to rediscover that same form, as he looks to improve on his 39th place on the season-long Rankings.
“It is a lot more fun to play now when you are in the top 45 rather than outside the top 100 on the Rankings, as it feels like you have a good chance to secure a European Tour card if you play good,” said Lagergren. “I’m looking forward to this week, as it is a lot of money, so if you play good you will be close to graduating at the end of the year.
“It is hard to say what the difference was in Northern Ireland, as I have been playing pretty good this year, but just not managed to get four rounds together in one week. There I had one really good round, a couple of pretty good ones and one that was OK, so I managed to play four rounds of good golf.
“When I’m standing over every shot I won’t be thinking about the money this week, as I will be trying my best on every shot regardless of how much we are playing for. It is the same feeling like any event, but it is a big one, so I just need to try and do my best.
“This is the start of the end of the season and with the big money events left, if you play well you are going to secure your card, that’s for sure.”
There will be plenty to play for this week with many of those in the upper echelons of the Rankings in attendance, and the likes of Benjamin Hebert, Andrew Johnston and Jake Roos all in search of a crucial third title of the season that would see them graduate automatically to The European Tour.
Four past Champions here are also in the field as Mark Pilkington (2006), Gary Lockerbie (2008), Alvaro Velasco (2010) and Scott Henry (2012) all look to rediscover the form that saw them triumph in Almaty over the past ten years.
Former amateur star Matthew Fitzpatrick will also tee it up in Kazakhstan, his fifth start on the Challenge Tour, as he looks to do enough to secure full playing rights having spent the season so far relying on invites.