Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn will be among the stars in action when the NBO Oman Open gets underway in Muscat next month.
The 46-year-old Dane will join former Open champions Paul Lawrie and Darren Clarke in the Feburary 15-18 event at Al Mouj Golf Club.
For Lawrie, winner of the 1999 Open Championship, he is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’ll be one of the first few of 2018 for me personally and I’ve heard some good things about the golf course at Al Mouj already,” he said. “It’ll be nice to get out to Muscat to see it for myself.”
European Tour stalwarts Robert Karlsson, Thongchai Jaidee, David Howell and Peter Hanson, who between them have 30 wins on Tour, will be going toe-to-toe with the next generation of Tour stars. That includes Korean starlets Jeunghun Wang and Soomin Lee, French duo Alexander Levy and Roman Wattel, Italy’s Renato Paratore, Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard and 2016 Road to Oman graduate Jordan Smith.
Former BMW PGA Champion Matteo Manassero will bring some firepower to Al Mouj Golf while this year’s BMW SA Open winner Chris Paisley tees it up hoping to build on his impressive season so far, which has also included top five finishes at both the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
France’s Victor Dubuisson and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, two of the heroes of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, will get their first taste of competitive golf in Oman.
Among the elite field will be Nasser Yacoob of Bahrain who earned his place in the field after winning this year’s OHI Oman Amateur Open in a play-off.
“It felt so great to get the win at the Amateur Open against a strong field and now I have the opportunity to tee off with some of the best players in the world at the NBO Oman Open,” he said.
“I’m very happy the European Tour is coming to Oman as it’s such a beautiful country. I can’t wait to play at Al Mouj Golf. I think it’s one of the most beautiful courses in the world. I have played there before but never with the European Tour players so that’s going to be really special. I’ve played the Dubai Desert Classic in the past but I think this one will be more special as I really love the course.”
Clement Sordet waved the flag for France in Oman after keeping his cool to win the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final and secure his European Tour card for next season.
The 25-year-old had been in and around the leading pack for the first three days and timed his surge perfectly, building on his one-shot lead from Friday and never looking back.
A fourth round of 70 was his least flashy of the weekend but he stayed the course yesterday when other overnight hopefuls, such as Argentina’s Estanislao Goya and Oliver Lindell of Finland, dropped off.
PRESENTING: The Challenge Tour graduates 2017 👏🍾🙌 pic.twitter.com/iXR16QqiT2
— Challenge Tour (@Challenge_Tour) November 4, 2017
Victory at Al Mouj Golf not only bagged him €71,600 but saw him come second in the Road to Oman – with the top 15 finishers graduating from the Challenge Tour and receiving a European Tour card.
“It feels great,” said Sordet, whose 15 under-par topped second-placed Swede Marcus Kinhult by two shots. “I have been playing really good lately and to finish the season with the win is amazing.
“It was definitely the the highlight of my career so far. To finish in the top 15 was my main goal at the start of the year and to finish the season second in the rankings feels great.
“I am going to take two weeks off and enjoy some time at home then I will be ready for next season.”
The Hat may have won the Rankings, but hats off to all 15 of our 2017 graduates!
— Challenge Tour (@Challenge_Tour) November 4, 2017
Despite a lowly finish in Muscat, Finn Tapio Pulkkanen topped the Road to Oman standings and earned an extra €30,000 for a superb season.
But much of the joy was reserved for the players on the fringes of the top 15 including an under-the-weather Scott Fernandez, who finished up on 12 under-par and a tie for third – good enough for 14th for the year.
“I have been fighting off a virus throughout the week but I have been able to fight through that and everything else to get the job done,” said the Spaniard. “I am thrilled as it is a dream come true. I am really excited for what comes next.”
Clement Sordet saved his very best until last as the Frenchman rose to the top of the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final on Moving Day in Oman.
This tournament presents the last chance for the Challenge Tour’s golfers to earn enough points on the Road to Oman to seal a top 15 spot – and a European Tour card for next season.
A top 10 finish at Al Mouj Golf would just about seal it for Sordet but the 25-year-old is clearly in it to win it, as he started the third round with back-to-back birdies.
Then a back nine of 33, including a birdie on an 18th that had a fiendishly tricky pin, saw him move to 13 under and take a one-shot lead over Oliver Lindell heading into the final day.
“It was great to start with two birdies – the perfect way to start the third round,” said Sordet, who won the Viking Challenge earlier this year. “To finish with a birdie was also fantastic and I played really solid for the whole round.
“Some of the pin positions today were a bit crazy so you just had to take your medicine and aim eight or ten yards either side – so that’s what I did.
“I am trying not to think about promotion (to the European Tour)at all. I have been playing really well over the last three weeks so I am just going to keep doing what I am doing as it has worked really well so far. Winning would be a really good way to graduate.”
18 holes to go
— Challenge Tour (@Challenge_Tour) November 3, 2017
But the next 18 holes promise a fierce battle as Lindell and Thursday’s leader Estanislao Goya kept up the pace with solid rounds.
Lindell went bogey-free to go two under for the day while, if not for a double bogey on the 15th, Goya would be sharing the lead with Sordet rather than two shots behind.
“I played really well to be honest, I had really good opportunities and had really good putts that didn’t go in,” said third-placed Goya. “Overall I’m really happy with my round.
“Even though the course was as windy as yesterday, the pins were pretty tough – but the course conditions were really good, the greens are getting firmer, so it’s getting tougher.
“I’m enjoying myself and playing well, so there’s no reason not to be relaxed.”
Lindell was excused from compulsory military service in his native Finland for the tournament – and he’s remaining cool under fire.
“The plan for the day was to make zero bogeys and I did a pretty good job of that,” said the 19-year-old.
“It was pretty difficult out there, you always have to hit good shots on this course to get close, and it was playing really tough today.
“Tomorrow is going to be a really interesting day. It will be the biggest day of my career so hopefully I can play well.”
Just three shots separate the top seven and the most impressive performance of the day belonged to Erik van Rooyen, who moved into a tie for sixth after firing a round of six under.