Young golf star shifts focus to Dubai Desert Classic

Joy Chakravarty 21:34 24/01/2017
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Learning curve: Rayhan while playing a practice round with Rickie Fowler in Abu Dhabi.

Even though Rayhan Thomas was extremely disappointed on missing the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, his coach Justin Parsons could not have been more proud of what his 17-year-old ward achieved playing only his second European Tour event.

The Dubai-based teenager, now the highest ranked amateur in India, shot rounds of 72 and 75, with three late bogeys in Friday’s second round meaning he missed the cut by five shots.

Thomas has now started preparing for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, for which he qualified by winning the MENA Golf Tour Amateur Order of Merit, and Parsons exuded confidence that he will put up an even better show on the Majlis course.

“I thought the most admirable part of what Rayhan did in Abu Dhabi was how he handled the attention and pressure with his usual level-headedness,” said Parsons, who heads the Butch Harmon School of Golf in Dubai Sports City.

“He was very excited about the tournament and he was excited about playing the practice round with Rickie Fowler and meeting Dustin Johnson. But he was not in awe of the situation and the way he played made us all very proud.

“Obviously, he was disappointed he could not make the cut. But he has shown that while he may not have the game yet to win a tournament like this, he definitely has the game to make the cut.

“When we spoke that evening, I impressed upon him that his outing in Abu Dhabi was by no means a failure. I made him understand that he was very close to making the cut, and this was like the first step.

“This is like his first few events on the MENA Tour. He was nervous back then. And look how comfortable he is there now. The same process will happen in these bigger tournaments. He is just 17 and the potential to improve over the next two-three years is immense.”

Parsons was happy with the technical aspects of Thomas’ game, but he felt the youngster will have to work a lot more on his walking.

“I think Rayhan has done a terrific job on his fitness, but he needs to become a better walker. Some of the mistakes he made coming in on Friday could be attributed to a couple of things – he was getting a bit tired, and perhaps because he felt that he wouldn’t be able to make the cut at that point,” added Parsons.

“Professional golfers today are like professional walkers. Rayhan has improved a lot, but more needs to be done there.”

With the Desert Classic scheduled for next week, Parsons doesn’t feel the need to change anything technically with Thomas’ game.

“I was very happy with all aspects of his game, especially his iron play. He was able to find the greens with his long as well as short irons, which was pleasing, and I thought he drove the ball well,” said Parsons.

“We will perhaps work a bit on his putting routine, but I am happy with his game technically.”

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