Defending champion Jake Shepherd continued to be chased hard by teenage prodigy Rayhan Thomas in the Dubai Creek Open on Tuesday.
On the second day of the MENA Golf Tour event, the Dubai-based 16-year-old Thomas, who was denied the chance to become the first amateur champion of the Tour last year by Shepherd, caught up with the English professional.
Going into the final day at Dubai Creek today, Thomas tied Shepherd at the top of the leaderboard at 10-under par 132 following his solid four-under par 67 round yesterday. Shepherd, leading by one shot after the first round, added a 68 to his opening 64.
The duo is now three shots clear of former Order of Merit champion Luke Joy, who carded a 69 for a seven-under par total, while Zane Scotland (71) still remains a big threat at five-under par 137, where he was joined by Pakistan’s Shafiq Masih, Stuart Archibald of England and Sweden’s Fredrik From.
On a day when hot and humid conditions took its toll on energy levels and stamina, Shepherd moved to 11-under after the 13th, but a bogey on the tough closing hole of Creek prevented him from maintaining his overnight lead.
“I played scrappy golf. Drove the ball well, but iron game wasn’t that good. Also, I had a lot of putts that refused to go in,” said Shepherd, who made two birdies, one eagle (for the second successive day on the 10th hole) and the bogey on the 18th in his second round.
“Even though I couldn’t concentrate well on the last four or five holes, I will take a 68,” said Shepherd, who, like last year, will play alongside Thomas in the final group.
“He is a massive talent and a good friend. It will be fun playing with him again,” said the 25-year-old Englishman.
Thomas, who made a bogey on the second hole but recovered well with five birdies after that, said: “Overall, I am very pleased with my efforts. Struck the ball as well as I did in the first round, but did not hole that many putts. I must have missed at least four birdie chances from within 12 feet.
“But I sank a nice one on the 15th from 20 feet to get to 10-under. I am not thinking too much about the final round. I will try and focus on each shot as it comes and see what happens.”
England’s Joy felt it was a different challenge out there, a question of survival because of the tough conditions playing in the afternoon.
“On the back nine I had a little good spell, making four birdies in five holes which helped,” said Joy, the winner of the Dubai Creek Open in 2014.
Danny Poulter, elder brother of Ryder Cup hero Ian, carded back-to-back 71s for a share of 20th while Morocco’s Faycal Serghini led the MENA Division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation Award on one-over.
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