Ayla Golf Club is getting ready to host the first MENA Tour event in Jordan, signalling the dawn of a new era for golf in the land of mesmerising natural beauty.
The inaugural Ayla Golf Championship will see MENA Tour patron Darren Clarke join a strong field as they navigate Jordan’s first 18-hole all-grass championship golf course, designed by two-time major winner Greg Norman, in Aqaba starting from Thursday.
Overlooking the scenic views of the Red Sea, the course is considered Norman’s top three most sustainable golf courses, featuring solar-powered floodlights and eco-friendly paspallum grass that is fed using water from 19 wells.
“For us to be considered as a venue capable of hosting our first professional golf tournament within our first year of operation is both testament to the quality of the product as well as our collective team’s desire to showcase Ayla, Aqaba and, indeed Jordan, to a global audience,” said Sahl Dudin, managing director of Ayla.
With three of the top five on the Order of Merit standings, currently led by England’s Jamie Elson, it promises to be an absorbing contest before the winner is crowned on Saturday.
Elson (23,453 points) is followed by Sweden’s Fredrik From (19,021) while Luke Joy, is placed fifth with 16,420 points. There is one more event — the Sahara Kuwait Golf Championship — to go before the season-ending Tour Championship later this month.
Lucas Bjerregaard has all but secured his place in the season ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, after winning his maiden European Tour event at the Portugal Masters.
The 26-year-old, who won the inaugural GolfSixes event in May with compatriot Thorbjorn Olesen, started the last day with a one-stroke advantage and never looked like letting it slip as he finished the tournament on 20 under par.
The only player who put pressure on the 387th-ranked Bjerregaard was George Coetzee, but the South African ran out of steam on the back nine before posting a triple bogey on the 18th hole.
That allowed Marc Warren to finish second alone on 16-under overall.
The result sees Bjerregaard’s season tally grow to 582,062 points, placing him in prime position to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship in November.
Warren’s lone runner-up finish at the Portugal Masters earned him a useful haul of 222,220 points.
The Scotsman now jumps from 173rd to 100th place in the Race to Dubai rankings with a season total of 317,075 points.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood remains at the head of the Race to Dubai Rankings with 3,771,122 points, whilst Spaniard Sergio Garcia is in second with 2,799,255 points and his young compatriot Jon Rahm sits in third on 2,761,857.
Former Team Europe Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke will compete in the Dubai Creek Open starting Monday, in a significant boost for the MENA Tour.
Now in its sixth year, the event at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club continues to gather strength, and the presence of Clarke, a patron of the MENA Tour, will be one of the many storylines leading into the week.
The 49-year-old who won the Open Championship in 2011 is grouped with reigning champion Rayhan Thomas and Sweden’s Fredrik From, with the trio going out at 11am.
Of the many stars on show, much attention will fall on the shoulders of 17-year-old Dubai-based Thomas, who has climbed to 50th in the world amateur rankings. Should he defend his title, will become the second player after Zane Scotland to win the tournament on two separate occasions.
Speaking of Rayhan’s spectacular rise, Clarke said: “Rayhan is a special talent. What he has achieved and the way he is going it is very easy to heap pressure on him. He’s got a huge future in front of him.
“To win here last year in the way he did, that’s another marker in his career and I’ll certainly be watching what lines he’ll be taking off the tees this week.”
He added: “All the people looking in can see what Rayhan has achieved and then hopefully follow in his footsteps.”
In the third year of his role as patron, Clarke provides strategic input into the planning, implementation and management of the Tour’s programmes.
“With a lot of fresh talent coming through the ranks, the MENA Tour is headed in the right direction and now has an increasingly cosmopolitan feel as reflected in the roll of honour which has seen 46 different winners from 19 countries,” said the Ulsterman, who was also instrumental in attaining Official World Golf Ranking recognition for the tour last year.
“The next step to take the MENA Tour forward is some local support from the UAE to realise how special this tour is.
“The UAE needs more support, from word of mouth around the world to more financial backing. These events are expensive to run.
“The players are being tested on proper courses which can only be a good thing. I think the MENA Tour has made golf – from a professional point of view – more attractive for guys to play in the UAE.”
Christopher May, CEO of Dubai Golf, said: “We look forward to welcoming players from different nationalities on the MENA Tour. With the great Darren in the field, the event has taken on a special significance. I am sure the script will have some exciting twists and turns.”
“Our golf course operations team have spared no pain in ensuring the (par-71) course is in great condition for the big week,” he added.