Ahmed Al Musharrekh spearheaded a determined Arab assault on the Ras Al Khaimah Classic at Tower Links Golf Club leaderboard going into the final round with a career-best 67 to steal a share of the lead.
Al Musharrekh, the only golf professional from the UAE, reeled off seven birdies in his five-under second round and only a double-bogey on the sixth hole prevented the youngster from taking the solo lead as he joined Spain’s Tony Ferrer, Peter Stojanovski (Macedonia) and Abdulrahman Sihag (Kenya) at the summit of a congested on six-under par.
Lurking ominously just a shot off the lead is the Moroccan duo of Faycal Serghini and Ahmed Marjane, who shared fifth place with Cennydd Mills (Wales), Craig Hinton (England) and Scotsman Daniel Kay, who is also the highest-placed amateur in the field going into the final day.
With five shots separating the top 28 players, the prognosis points to an exciting finish to the $50,000 tournament.
With the Moroccan pair of Amine Joudar and Yassine Touhami (amateur) also making big moves up the leaderboard with matching 68s, it will be interesting to see how the Arab players – with a total of six in red figures – fare coming down the final stretch. But while the scoring was impressive all round, it was Al Musharrekh who took centre-stage with the round of his life.
“I felt at peace with myself out there. Every part of my game fell into place. Take that double-bogey away when I came up short from 100 yards and failed to get up and down, I played really well,” said the 24-year-old Sharjah-based golfer.
“I try to be mentally tough in any situation on the course and that’s the key to an overall improvement in my game. There are plenty of scoring opportunities there and if I can hole some putts, I think I stand a good chance of going the distance. But you never know what tomorrow holds.”
Morocco’s Serghini, who boasts three runner-up finishes on the MENA Golf Tour, put himself in contention for another strong finish with a second round 68.
“It was a very good day at work, I played solid golf. Made just two mistakes – first when I hit my approach into water on the 5th and then I came up short on the 11th and failed to get up and down, both silly errors thatresulting in bogeys,” said Serghini.
Zane Scotland, the defending Ras Al Khaimah Classic champion, came back from the dead with a magnificent back nine to overcome a stuttering start in the opening round at Tower Links Golf Club yesterday.
The turnaround saw the defending champion make six birdies in his last seven holes for a card of even-par 72, but the Englishman was still four shots off the pace.
On a hot and humid day when 50 players shot par or better, Spaniard Toni Ferrer, England’s Ashley Rees and Kenyan Abdulrahman Sihag all shot four-under par 68 to lead the $50,000 tournament.
Morocco’s Ahmed Marjane heads an eight-man chasing group on three-under par 69 with nine players just a shot further back.
As many as seven Arab golfers, including the UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh, put red numbers on the scorecard in a healthy sign of the growing standard of the game in the MENA region.
Marjane mixed four birdies, including three on the back nine, with a lone bogey on the seventh, to lead the race for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Award as fellow countryman Amine El Malki hit the front in the amateur division with a par 70.
Making his debut on the MENA Golf Tour, England’s John Singleton, who earlier this year qualified for The Open Championship, settled for a level-par 72.
And Singleton, a factory employee in Birkenhead, said: “I really enjoyed my day out there. It was my first competitive round since The Open and I obviously felt a bit rusty.”
But it was Scotland’s stunning rally that was the talk of the golf course. The 32-year-old ignited his fightback after dropping five shots on two holes on the outward nine.
“It was a nightmare. On the fifth, I lost my ball off the tee and three putted for a triple bogey then on the sixth, my ball got stuck in a palm tree, resulting in a double-bogey,” said Scotland.
“Take those two holes away, I think I played well. If I continue to play the way I did on the back nine, in particular, I think I stand a chance come Wednesday.”
Luke Joy, the Order of Merit leader, and Cyril Suk, winner of the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open, both carded matching 72s, while Chris McDonnell, the dual winner of the 2014 British and Austrian PGA, slipped to four-over 76.
Zane Scotland will need to summon all his obstinate qualities if he aims to stop runaway Order of Merit leader Luke Joy and defend his title at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, starting on Monday at Tower Links Golf Club.
The Englishman signalled a return to form with a top-three finish at last week’s Abu Dhabi Open and will hope to keep the momentum going when he joins a strong field led by his countrymen Joy.
The return of Czech Republic’s Cyril Suk, who won the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open two weeks ago, will further ratchet up excitement to the $50,000 tournament, which is the sixth stop on this year’s MENA Golf Tour.
All eyes, however, will be on Joy, who has so far secured two victories and a second-place in his first three events.
“[I’m] absolutely buzzing and so happy to get my second win, it’s been a fantastic three weeks in the Middle East and my form has been terrific,” said Joy. “It will be nice to get some more under my belt.”
With the field looking for the right recipe to end his amazing run of success, the intensity of the competition promises to spice things up in a field that comprises 117 players, including 28 amateurs.
“I was struggling with back pain recently, but it has subsided now. I am feeling a lot more comfortable on the golf course and hitting some good shots out there. It seems my game is coming back,” said Scotland, who boasts a whopping six wins on the MENA Golf Tour.
"It feels fantastic coming back to a course where you have done well. It adds to the confidence, but it's a new week and you've got to make sure you keep doing everything you need to do to continue with that success," added the ‘golf in DUBAi’ ambassador.
With back-to-back victories on the bounce under his belt, Morocco’s Younes El Hassani is riding the wave of success in the MENA Division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation Award.
His compatriot Faycal Serghini is struggling to find form at the moment, having missed the cut twice in his last three tournaments. But Serghini, who finished runner-up to England’s White in the MENA Golf Tour’s opening event in Mohammedia earlier this year, sees it as a temporary blip on his radar screen.
“Ups and downs are very much a part of the game. It’s just a question of stringing together one good round and things will fall in place. I am confident it will happen soon,” he said.