Dubai Creek: It’s tight at the top

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Brilliant start: Jake Shepherd

Defending champion Jake Shepherd continued to be chased hard by teenage prodigy Rayhan Thomas in the Dubai Creek Open on Tuesday.

On the second day of the MENA Golf Tour event, the Dubai-based 16-year-old Thomas, who was denied the chance to become the first amateur champion of the Tour last year by Shepherd, caught up with the English professional.

Going into the final day at Dubai Creek today, Thomas tied Shepherd at the top of the leaderboard at 10-under par 132 following his solid four-under par 67 round yesterday. Shepherd, leading by one shot after the first round, added a 68 to his opening 64.

The duo is now three shots clear of former Order of Merit champion Luke Joy, who carded a 69 for a seven-under par total, while Zane Scotland (71) still remains a big threat at five-under par 137, where he was joined by Pakistan’s Shafiq Masih, Stuart Archibald of England and Sweden’s Fredrik From.

On a day when hot and humid conditions took its toll on energy levels and stamina, Shepherd moved to 11-under after the 13th, but a bogey on the tough closing hole of Creek prevented him from maintaining his overnight lead.

“I played scrappy golf. Drove the ball well, but iron game wasn’t that good. Also, I had a lot of putts that refused to go in,” said Shepherd, who made two birdies, one eagle (for the second successive day on the 10th hole) and the bogey on the 18th in his second round.

“Even though I couldn’t concentrate well on the last four or five holes, I will take a 68,” said Shepherd, who, like last year, will play alongside Thomas in the final group.

“He is a massive talent and a good friend. It will be fun playing with him again,” said the 25-year-old Englishman.

Thomas, who made a bogey on the second hole but recovered well with five birdies after that, said: “Overall, I am very pleased with my efforts. Struck the ball as well as I did in the first round, but did not hole that many putts. I must have missed at least four birdie chances from within 12 feet.

“But I sank a nice one on the 15th from 20 feet to get to 10-under. I am not thinking too much about the final round. I will try and focus on each shot as it comes and see what happens.”

England’s Joy felt it was a different challenge out there, a question of survival because of the tough conditions playing in the afternoon.

“On the back nine I had a little good spell, making four birdies in five holes which helped,” said Joy, the winner of the Dubai Creek Open in 2014.

Danny Poulter, elder brother of Ryder Cup hero Ian, carded back-to-back 71s for a share of 20th while Morocco’s Faycal Serghini led the MENA Division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation Award on one-over.

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Dubai Creek Open: Five players to watch

Ones to watch at Dubai Creek.

The Dubai Creek Open takes place this week, with England’s Jake Shepherd aiming for a repeat success at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.

The 26-year-old earned success in 2015 with playoff victory over both Rayhan Thomas and Florian Praegant after a three-way tie at 9-under-par.

The event marks the 50th in the history of the MENA Tour since its 2011 inauguration.

Can anybody stop 11-time winner Zane Scotland in Dubai?

Zane Scotland (ENG)

Age: 34 Turned pro: 2003.

Achievements: A former European Tour star, Scotland is an 11-time winner on the Tour and four-time runner-up. He won the 2013 Order of Merit title.

Jake Shepherd (ENG)

Age: 26 Turned pro: 2011.

Achievements: A two-time winner on the MENA Golf Tour and winner of the Order of Merit title in 2011. Both his wins have come following playoffs.

Lee Corfield (ENG)

Age: 34 Turned pro: 2005.

Achievements: A four-time winner on the MENA Golf Tour, he is the second most successful player on the Tour after Scotland.

Ahmed Marjan (MOR)

Age: 24 Turned pro: 2014.

Achievements: The blue-eyed boy of the MENA Tour, he became the first Arab player to win a Tour event in 2014 at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic.

Rayhan Thomas (IND)

Age: 16 Status: Amateur.

Achievements: A two-time runner-up on the Tour, he has won the Scottish Boys’ Open and Qatar Amateur Open this year. Was EGF Order of Merit winner in 2015.

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MENA Golf chief outlines plans for the future

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Smile of a half century: (From l) UAE pro Abdulla Al Musharrekh, Al Zarouni, Buamaim, Mustafa Al Hashimi and Zane Scotland on eve of Dubai Creek Open.

The MENA Golf Tour, which started with a schedule of four UAE-based tournaments in 2011, completes yet another major milestone this week with the hosting of its 50th tournament – the Dubai Creek Open.

The Tour really has grown by leaps and bounds. The 2016 schedule has 18 tournaments and visits 10 countries. It now features a Qualifying School and earlier this year, received its biggest recognition when the international golf federation awarded world ranking status to it.

The world ranking status was always the driving force for chairman Mohamed Juma Buamaim, and now that he has achieved his dream, he is busy setting new goals for the MENA Golf Tour.

“That was very important for the Tour. Because if we want Arab players to qualify for the Olympics, world ranking is the only way,” said Buamaim at a press conference in Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club to kick off the second half of the season.


“Now that we have got that, I want more Arab players to play our tournaments. That is the next goal for me. We have the support of the Arab Golf Federations, but we also need the individual federations to send their amateur players to play with the professionals on MENA Golf Tour and becoming better players.








“The most memorable moment for me in this 50-tournament journey was when Moroccan Ahmed Marjan won the Ras Al Khaimah event in 2014. With all due respect to all the wonderful professional players we get from other parts of the world, this tour’s man objective is to develop players from the region.


“I think we are at the right level of tournaments in the calendar. We are not looking at the quantity but rather on how we can make each of them better qualitatively. But yes, I do want more Arab players, especially amateurs, to participate.”


Smile of a half century: (From l) UAE pro Abdulla Al Musharrekh, Al Zarouni, Buamaim, Mustafa Al Hashimi and Zane Scotland on eve of Dubai Creek Open.

Smile of a half century: (From l) UAE pro Abdulla Al Musharrekh, Al Zarouni, Buamaim, Mustafa Al Hashimi and Zane Scotland on eve of Dubai Creek Open.


Buamaim has a point. In the past couple of years, members of the UAE national team have only played in a handful of MENA Tour events, despite the fact that better competition can only make them better players.


Adel Zarouni, vice chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF), agreed with Buamaim’s view and promised to make a difference in the future.


“It’s quite encouraging to see the tour grow in stature and popularity every year. It’s a fantastic achievement. We never thought it will become what it has become, but Mohamed and his team has done a terrific job,” Zarouni said.


“I am going to personally push it with the Emirates Golf Federation and with the other federations that are part of the Arab Golf Federation so that talented regional amateurs play more events in the Tour.”


England’s Jake Shepherd is the defending champion, but all eyes will be on Order of Merit leader Zane Scotland and Dubai-based amateur Rayhan Thomas when the tournament starts at 7am today.


Scotland won the inaugural MENA Tour event in 2011, and has added 10 more to his kitty after that, while 16-year-old Thomas has shown incredible form in various parts of the world and would be eager to go one better than his runner-up finish in the same tournament last year.



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