At Tower Links Golf Club Wednesday, Craig Hinton started the day in a share of the lead with Scotland, but finished one shot ahead of his rival after a second-round 68 helped him reach nine-under par for the tournament.
Fellow Englishman Scotland, who backed up his opening 67 with a 69, was second at eight-under par, while Spain’s Carlos Balmaseda matched Hinton’s 68 to occupy solo third on seven-under.
England’s Daniel Owen carded his personal best 67 in a MENA Golf Tour event to haul himself back into contention at six-under par, where he was joined by Tunnicliff, who added a 70 to his opening-round 68.
A three-time runner-up on the MENA Tour, Hinton sounded confident going the full distance this time around.
“I have been driving the ball well and my putting has been pretty solid,” said the Englishman, who mixed five birdies with a lone bogey at the sixth hole.
“It’s just that I need to work a bit more on my iron and wedge play which is kind of so-so.”
Scotland, who made eight birdies and three bogeys in his 67 on Monday, kept the mistakes away, although the birdie count dropped to three.
Owen, the 26-year-old Bahrain-based Englishman, is also seeking his maiden win on the Tour and he did his chances no harm with a bogey-free round that featured five birdies.
“I played really well. Gave myself a plenty of opportunities out there and holed some nice putts, especially on the back nine,” said Owen, who produced the highlight of the day on the 12th, draining a long 45-foot birdie putt.
“I have been striking the ball really good. It’s just that my putting felt so solid and decisive and that made the difference.”
Top UAE amateur Rayhan Thomas carded a level-par 72 stay in the frame for a strong finish at three under. The young prodigy raced to four-under after his first 10 holes, but a wayward drive on the 14th resulted in a double-bogey and undid all the good work.
Tied for 11th place overall, Thomas still leads the amateur division by a four shots over Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla, who carded a second round 73.
The half-way cut was made at five-over-par with 51 professionals and nine amateurs making it to the final round. The first group will go out at 7am today.
Zane Scotland, who hit the first shot of the tournament which marks a new chapter in the Tour’s history with the introduction of the world ranking points, and Craig Hinton shot identical rounds of five-under par 67s to hit the front.
Veteran Miles Tunnicliff occupied solo third with a four-under par 68, followed by a group of eight men tied for the fourth place at 69, including Thomas.
It really wasn’t the best of starts for Thomas, who opened with a double bogey six when he overshot the green with a wedge and then three-putted.
But Thomas showed terrific mental strength to make three birdies and turn at one-under, before picking up three more shots on the back nine that contained just one bogey.
“I really played well and made very few mistakes after a disappointing start,” said the 16-year-old reigning EGF Order of Merit champion, who nearly won the Dubai Creek Open last year.
“If I can keep the momentum rolling all the way through, it will be great, but I don’t want to get ahead and will take things as they come.”
Thomas also leads the amateur division by one shot over Abu Dhabi-based Brazil’s Tiago Lobo with Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla third on level-par.
Scotland rode on a fluent start to string together a solid round that included eight birdies, with four of them coming in the first five holes.
The 10-time winner on the MENA Tour said: “I made some good putts early in the round and that kind of set the tone for the day.
“Overall, it was a pretty solid round, especially my approaches were very close and that helped me keep going.”
Hinton later joined him on top of the leaderboard, and he also made four birdies in five holes, but unlike Scotland who made them in the beginning of his round, Hinton made his over the closing stretch.
Welsh ace Stephen Dodd, the Scottish duo of Paul Doherty and Daniel Kay, England’s Jake Shepherd, Jesper Alm of Sweden, India’s Manish Goel and Carlos Balmaseda of Spain completed the group tied for fourth on three-under 69.
Three birdies in a row from the first hole highlighted the round of Dodd, a three-time winner on the European Tour, who also topped the MENA Golf Tour Order of Merit in 2012.
Tunnicliff, a two-time winner on the European Tour, picked up four shots in six holes after making opening with a bogey to close out a fabulous front nine of 33. He bogeyed the 11th, before finishing strongly with birdies on the 15th and 17th to move into contention for his maiden Tour title.
The 47-year-old Englishman said: “I played pretty solid golf. Drove the ball well and hit some very good iron shots close to the pin, especially on the front nine. I struggled a little bit on 11, 12 and 13, but managed to finish strongly with two late birdies.”
Andrew Marshall, a two-time winner on the European Tour, returned a two-under 70 to take a share of 11th place.
The brand new Nicklaus design course boasts a unique tidal style and Sport360 test-drived the facility last year.
Moving on, and in the same action-packed opening episode of #WeAreTroonInternational, Troon Golf International also discuss the following topics:
• What is on offer at the Arabian Ranches Golf Club in Dubai while their Ranches Terrace closes for a miraculous makeover for the summer.