SHANGHAI — Last week, Henrik Stenson turned out to be the overwhelming winner of an online poll conducted by the European Tour, that asked fans which player would make the best James Bond.
So, it seemed like a good idea to ask Stenson, who got nearly 45 per cent of the approximately 3,000 votes cast, what was the most Bond-ish thing he has ever done on a golf course.
No, him flexing his muscles and playing a golf shot in his underwear in a PGA Tour event was not Stenson’s idea of Bond-like style.
“I did a photo shoot in black tie and suit in Orlando a couple years ago. I’ve been in a bunker in a black suit,” said Stenson.
“I actually did an instructional piece on bunker shots in the black suit and tie, yeah…It doesn’t get more Bond than that, isn’t it?”
The proximity to NHL great Wayne Gretzky is rubbing off on Dustin Johnson, the 2013 champion of the tournament.
Johnson, who is engaged to Wayne’s daughter Paulina, admitted he did not know much about hockey before knowing Paulina.
“I was probably zero before,” said Johnson when asked about his hockey proficiency.
— Paulina Gretzky (@PaulinaGretzky) January 16, 2014
“I mean, I watched it a little bit. But definitely watch it a lot more, especially when we’re hanging out at her family's house. If I’m at my house, no.
“I like it, but I like going to the games more. Definitely been to a lot more games. I didn’t go to any games before I met her and now I've been to quite a few and I enjoy that.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick, who is the youngest player in the field this week at 21, feels he starts with a disadvantage on a golf course that definitely suits the longer hitters.
The rookie, who is having a sensational season on the European Tour and is ranked 14th in the Race to Dubai, said of the rain-soaked 7,266-yard Sheshan International Golf Course: “It’s a little bit longer, I have to admit. I think it is going to suit the longer hitters.
“You go in the rough, it's not easy to get out, or it's not easy to hit it where you want after that; whereas the guys that hit it 340, 350 yards, then they are only going in with lob-wedge where I’m coming in with 5-iron. So that makes a difference.”
Faycal Serghini and Per Barth shot matching six-under 66s to share the first round lead as 2016 European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke returned a 71 at the MENA Golf Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic.
Morocco’s Serghini went bogey free in Monday’s opening round while Sweden’s Barth lit up the back nine with five birdies after making the turn at one under to take a oneshot lead over the English duo of James Allan (amateur) and Michael Downes.
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A five-man group, headed by Welsh ace Stephen Dodd and Scotland’s Ted Innes Ker, led the chasing pack, moving into a tie for fifth on four under.
Serghini felt he was in control of the proceedings most of the time after early hiccups.
“With a wayward drive on the first and a terrible approach on the second, I did not get off to a very good start, but just managed to save pars. Played steady golf thereafter,” said Serghini, who played the back nine at four under.
“I felt like I was in the zone most of the day. Can’t complain after opening with a 66.”
— Dale Marmion (@DaleMarmion) November 1, 2015
Sweden’s Barth was equally pleased with his day’s efforts.
Clarke, who is the patron of the MENA Golf Tour, enjoyed his first round on the tour.
“I may have struggled a bit with the speed of the greens, but overall I had good fun on this course,” said the 42-year-old Ulsterman whose opening round consisted of two birdies and a bogey.
Defending champion Ahmed Marjan settled for a 75, but won a word of praise from Clarke, his partner. “He may have left some shots out there, but he played some good golf,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dodd, a three-time winner on the European Tour, flew out of the gate with birdies on his first two holes and kept the momentum rolling all the way through to stay in contention for his third title on the MENA Golf Tour.
Miles Tunnicliff, a two-time winner on the European Tour, played the last 15 holes at four under for a tidy 69.
France’s Victor Dubuisson closed with a birdie to win the Turkish Airlines Open by one shot from South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl on Sunday.
Dubuisson, who won the inaugural edition in 2013, shot a final round 66 for a 22-under par total of 266.
The Frenchman started off in bright fashion, making a birdie in three of his first four holes, but was always playing catch-up after that when he made a double bogey five on the par-3 fifth hole, followed by a bogey on the seventh.
Despite making a birdie on the ninth, the 25-year-old trailed South African van Zyl and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the two other players playing alongside him in the leading group.
But van Zyl (67) and Aphibarnrat (67) both slowed down on the back nine, while Dubuisson reignited his round with a chipped-in eagle on the par-5 11th hole, and then made three birdies in his last four to finish with a 22-under par total of 266.
Van Zyl had a birdie chance from 15 feet on the last hole to get into a playoff, but he missed and settled for a par and second place at 21-under par 267.
The shot of a champion. https://t.co/LVPMnwisvu
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 1, 2015
Aphibarnrat was heartbroken when a birdie putt on the 18th from less than two feet lipped out and denied him a tied second place finish. He was third on 268.
Reigning BMW PGA champion Byeong-Hun An of South Korea added a 66 to his 65 on Saturday to finish fourth on 269, two ahead of England’s Chris Wood (68).
World number three Rory McIlroy could not get going and a one-under par 71 round was good only for a tied sixth place at 16-under par 272 with American Peter Uihlein (68).
Dubuisson, who is expected to move into the top-35 of the world ranking from his current 69, earned $1.166 million and 1,333,330 points on the Race to Dubai.
McIlroy, who started well with two birdies in his first four holes, struggled with both the putter and his hitting as he made three bogeys after that.
But the four-time major champion saw several positives as he gets ready to play the WGC-HSBC Champions next week.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) November 1, 2015
“The game’s definitely better, better than the last couple of starts I made at The Tour Championship and Fry’s, and my ball-striking has been a little more consistent,” said McIlroy.
“I feel I’ve got a new driver in the bag and a new ball and I’m excited about that. It’s just more of trying to get myself into these positions and just try to handle them better.
“Don’t know if I was just trying a bit too hard out there or what it was. Whenever I get myself in this position, I need to get out of my own way a little bit.”
The Turkish Airlines Open was the first leg of the four-event Final Series of the European Tour. The second tournament is the $8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions, which will be played in Shanghai from Thursday.