‘Mathematically possible.’

It has become the calling card of the all-but defeated. It suggests hope in the face of odds stacked heavily against a team or an athlete.

Coming into The National Tournament, the finale to the 2023-2024 Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia season at The National Golf Club, Victorian Ben Eccles [pictured] knows that, for all of the possible mathematical permutations, the equation is relatively simple.

Win… and hope for the best.

Currently seventh on the Order of Merit, Eccles is the last player for whom a DP World Tour card is still a possibility.

Kiwi Kazuma Kobori has safely secured the No.1 spot with an unassailable lead from Vic Open winner Brett Coletta (599.76) with two-time winner this season, Daniel Gale (539.84), holding down third spot.

This week’s winner will be awarded 190 Order of Merit points, meaning that third spot is still within reach for Eccles (358.35), Jak Carter (360.60) and David Micheluzzi (372.64).

Matthew Griffin (494.69) can finish as high as second if he were to win across The National’s Moonah course on Sunday but, as Eccles highlights, the reality of the situation tells a far different story than pure numbers.

“Yes, mathematically it can happen. Realistically, it’s probably not going to happen,” Eccles reasoned.

“‘Galey’ and ‘Micha’ are good players and I can’t see them missing the cut.”

On the surface, it is a disappointing position that Eccles finds himself in. Winner of the WA PGA at Kalgoorlie – his first win in eight years – Eccles was also runner-up to Micheluzzi at the Vic PGA. He held a spot in the top three for much of the season but missed cuts at both the Australian Open and New Zealand Open, tournaments with maximum points up for grabs.

Needing a calculator heading into the final event is not where Eccles hoped to be, but is so far from where he was this time last year.

Twelve months ago, Eccles was one of those players teeing it up aware they would not keep their card for the next season. It necessitated a return to qualifying school and a shift in mindset under coach Grant Field that has delivered results well beyond expectations.

“Twelve months ago was an interesting position,” Eccles said. “I came into this event knowing I wasn’t going to keep my card and had to go back to Q-School. I wasn’t sure where I would be; financially I was in a bit of a tough position, honestly.

“Twelve months on, I’ve got two years exempt and I’ve nearly won twice. It’s totally different. I feel like I’m almost a different person.

“The progress and what I’ve learnt about myself and what I want to do and how I want to do it has just been awesome. I’m looking forward to the second half of 2024 and what that looks like and then into next year’s season.”

While Eccles can look forward with optimism, there are others for whom this week is the most important event of the summer.

Darcy Brereton (48th), Blake Proverbs (49th) and Jarryd Felton (50th) currently sit on the inside of the top 50 who keep their status for next season, Jack Munro (52nd), Jason Norris (53rd) and Kit Bittle (55th) all at The National to try and play their way in.

Adding to the intrigue is that, for the first two days at least, Coletta (second), Gale (third) and Griffin (fourth) will play together, fighting it out for the two remaining DP World Tour cards.

At the tournament welcome function on Tuesday night, Griffin recalled being paired with his two nearest rivals in the final event of the season as he tried to keep his card on the Asian Tour.

“I like this scenario much better,” he said.