Darren Clarke described young Rayhan Thomas “a huge talent” after the MENA Tour prodigy fired a magical 10-under 61 highlighted by world record-equalling nine birdies in a row in a stunning display of golf in the second round of the Dubai Creek Open on Tuesday.
That incredible run of birdies, starting from the second, ignited his challenge of winning back-to-back titles as he ended the penultimate day at 11-under, just two shots behind MG Keyser, who followed his record-breaking 61 with a 68 to keep his nose in front.
England’s Robert Harrhy occupied solo third on nine under, a good three shots clear of Peter Stojanovski of Australia and Todd Clements of England as 2016 European Ryder Cup captain Clarke moved into a four-way tie for sixth on five-under after a second-round 69.
Supremely accurate off the tee and clinical with the putter, Thomas hardly put a foot a wrong on his home course as he strung together a dream round to match the world record for most consecutive birdies in an Official World Golf Ranking event made by American Mark Calcavecchia at the 2009 RBC Canadian Open.
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger also fired nine consecutive birdies in the second round of the 2017 Maybank Championship in Malaysia, but it was not recognized as preferred lies were in force at Saujana Golf and Country.
Thomas’ flawless round, which also equalled the Dubai Creek course record set 24 hours ago by Keyser, had a special ring to it as it was achieved in the company of none other than 2011 Open champion Clarke, who is also the MENA Tour patron.
“Rayhan is a huge talent, obviously. He played beautifully, hit the ball very close and putted nicely. The way he was playing, this is the worse he could have shot,” said Clarke. “He was very calm and composed and read the greens very well, which I couldn’t!
“Rayhan’s game is trending in the right direction and I think he has a great future of ahead of him. I wish him the very best,” said the Northern Irishman.
Thomas, 17, attributed his brilliant effort to what he called smart golf. “I don’t think it was my best round ever, probably one of the best. I just wanted to avoid silly mistakes and make as many birdies as I could.
“My target was to shoot six or seven under, but when I started holing putts, I knew it’s going to be my day. Score-wise, it was. I am really happy with 10-under. I think I played very smart golf out there,” said Thomas, who will be featuring in the Presidents Cup later this month.
“It’s good to get a good round under my belt and get my rhythm going. It shows I have what it takes to go low. Hopefully, it’s going to be a good memory to fall back on,” said Thomas who had his chances to break 60, but narrowly missed mid-range birdies putts on the last two holes.
— Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf) September 12, 2017
Meanwhile, South African Keyser, who is based in Dubai, mixed four birdies with a lone bogey on the 17th to stay in stay in prime position for a breakthrough win on the MENA Tour.
Elsewhere, England’s Zane Scotland, a two-time winner of the Dubai Creek Open, was forced to withdraw to due to a bad back as the 36-hole cut was made at three-over-par 145 with 44 professionals and 11 amateurs making it to the final round.
The summer is now upon us but you can still fine-tune your golf skills or learn the tricks of the game by taking advantage of Abu Dhabi City Golf Club’s (ADCGC) promotions.
Whatever your experience, there is something for everyone with a range of activities on offer from Thursday, June 1 to September 14.
Their special deals include nine-hole play at Dh99 from 05:30 to 14:00 on weekdays, or Dh170 from 14:10 to 21:00, while if you want to play the 18 holes, then it’s double the price. For those who want to play on weekends, then nine holes cost Dh170, while 18 holes is Dh340.
For those who have never played the game or want to enhance their skills, then there are various golf lessons available.
For just Dh99, you can enjoy a 30-minute introductory lesson, while a two-hour session costs Dh499 (which includes a pool pass).
If you want a five-hour class, you can do exactly that for Dh999, which includes a playing lesson, flightscope session as well as a nine-hole green fee voucher that can be used on Sundays or Mondays.
Academy memberships for one and three months, starting from Dh499 as well as Golf Memberships (peak and off-peak), are also available.
It’s not the first time that ADCGC have had these promotions during this time of the year and following its success in the previous years, their head PGA professional Steve Johns insists 2017 will be no different.
“These promotions have been carefully chosen for what we believe is good value for money,” he said. “We have been doing these summer promotions for many years and it’s been a big hit with many people taking advantage of the offers, whether it’s through a single lesson or golf membership.
“Although there are a lot of people who do go overseas for their holidays, there’s still a majority who stay in the UAE. Golf is a perfect pastime sport to take up as they will have a lot of time on their hands.”
He added: “We have upgraded our floodlights last summer and now playing golf in the night is better than ever before. Although it’s a bit humid in the evening, it’s definitely more pleasant than playing in the daytime.
“Besides the golf deals, we also have some fantastic facilities such as the swimming pool and gym, plus there’ll be certain food and beverage promotions.”
WHAT: Abu Dhabi City Golf Club Summer Promotions
WHERE: Abu Dhabi City Golf Club
WHEN: June 1 to September 14
CONTACT: For more information, visit www.adcitygolf.ae
France’s Lionel Weber fired a solid five-under 67 to grab a share of the lead as rising teen star Victoria Tip-Aucha finished six shots off the pace after the opening round of the MENA Tour’s MahaSamutr Masters on Tuesday.
Weber, an established member of the Asian Tour and a Banyan Golf Club ambassador, reeled off seven birdies against two bogeys to join Thai Varanyu Rattanaphaibulkij and England’s MENA Tour ace Zane Scotland on top a crowded leaderboard.
Lee Corfield, a four-time winner on the MENA Tour, overcame an early bogey on the first to card a 68 that left him in a three-man group tied for fourth along with fellow Englishman Jordan Garnish and Thai Suradit Yongcharoenchai.
Sponsored by MahaSamutr Country Club Hua Hin and supported by Singha Water, the tournament saw 15-year-old US prodigy Victoria, of Thai heritage, make history by becoming the first woman to tee it up in a MENA Tour event.
She made the turn at level par after making a birdie on the opening hole, but two double bogeys, one each at 10th and 12th, dropped her back. Unruffled by the mid-round wobble, she picked up three shots in her last five holes to be tied 41st in the field.
“I started off well, but got to the point where I was four-over. I think I did well to bring it back to one-over, which was good,” said Victoria, who has already won five times on the Thailand girls golf circuit this year.
Weber felt local knowledge came in handy as he seized the early initiative.
“Being a Banyan Club ambassador, I have played this course many times. It’s always a pleasure to play on this great track,” he said. “I just didn’t putt very well, but still made some birdies out there which was quite pleasing.”
Thailand’s Rattanaphaibulkij mixed six birdies with a bogey while Scotland, a 10-time winner on the Tour, went bogey free on a day when 29 players, including 10 from Thailand, broke par.
Dubai-based Indian amateur Rayhan Thomas, who is supported by the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, returned a 70 to lead the amateur division on two-under, one ahead of the Thai trio of Runchanapong Youprayong, Worathon Zeng and 14-year-old Phichaksn Maichon, who recently won the 13-14 division at the 2016 Junior World championships in the United States.
Thomas had reached four-under for his round after 12 holes, but two late bogeys – on the fifth and seventh holes – denied him an even better finish.
Another Asian Tour regular, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, was alongside Thomas and seven others at two-under 70.
UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh endured a difficult opening round, signing for an 81 that left him a mountain to climb to make the cut.