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Baldwin shows his class to soar to five-shot lead in windy Ayla

February 10, 2019
Simply unstoppable: Matthew Baldwin, of England, raced to a five-shot lead after shooting a six-under par 66 round in howling wind at Ayla Golf Club

AQABA, Jordan: Even as the wind picked up considerably at Ayla Golf Club, Matthew Baldwin proved to be an unstoppable force as he grabbed a five-shot lead after round two of the Journey To Jordan-1, the opening event of the 2019 season of MENA Tour by Arena, on Sunday.

The wind funneling down from the mountain range is the greatest defense of the Greg Norman-designed course and reached 25mph at times, but that did not bother the 32-year-old Baldwin as he shot a superb six-under par 66, the best round of the day by two shots, to reach 13-under par 131 going into the final round on Monday.

There was a four-way tie for the second place at eight-under par. That included Scotland’s Conor O’Neil (69), Netherland’s Maarten Bosch (68), English amateur Jack Floydd (69) and Belgium’s Christopher Mivis (68).

Jordan’s 15-year-old Shergo Al Kurdi did not have the best of second round and dropped down to two-over par following a 77. He will however still feature on the final day as the MENA Tour allows the top-10 amateurs to play on the final day in an effort to encourage then.

Floydd was thus the leading amateur in the field at 136, followed by his compatriots Curtis Knipes (70, 138), and Dubai-based 14-year-old Josh Hill (74, 142).

Baldwin, winner of B Stage of the Qualifying School earlier this week at the same golf course, made an eagle on the par-5 first hole and five birdies after starting from the 10th tee. His only bogey came on the par-5 17th hole.

“It was really good today. I hit it a lot better than I did yesterday,” said Baldwin, a former European Tour player who has a full card on the Challenge Tour this year.

“I hit it close and I putted well. On the first, I hit my two-iron second shot to seven feet. I then got on a good run – hit it to about 12 feet on the sixth and holed it, then to 15 feet on the seventh and holed it and to about 20 feet on the eighth and holed that too.

“Five shots is a handy lead, but I will just try to play golf tomorrow. If somebody comes from behind and catches me, then well played to him.”

The 22-year-old Floydd started with an eagle on the first and was four-under par after four holes with birdies on the third and fourth.

“The conditions were difficult out there and I just tried to control my ball flight. I started really well and was four-under through four. I was consistent throughout after that and holed a few putts when I needed to,” said the James Madison University alumni.

“I am pretty used to the wind growing up on links courses, but also I have been here for almost two weeks and seen the course a lot and have got used to the wind.”

The cut was applied at one-over 145 and 56 professionals made it to the final round.

The 54-hole Journey To Jordan-1 end on Monday and features 117 players battling it out for a total prize purse of US$100,000, the largest in the history of the Tour since its inception in 2011.

Ayla Golf Club is the first Championship-size green golf course in Jordan and opened to public play in September 2016. The condition of the golf course, and its scenic setting adjacent to the Red Sea and at the foothills of the Shara Mountains, have wowed the critics and golf fans ever since. The club will host three events of the 2019 season’s Journey to Jordan, including the season-ending Tour Championship.

The MENA Tour by Arena is returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring and will feature 10 tournaments in 2019. It will continue to provide Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thus making it a perfect pathway for ambitious young professional to the bigger tours, and for the players from the region to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.