AQABA, November 26: Dubai-born amateur Josh Hill was in sight of a second MENA Tour by Arena title when he took a one-shot lead going into the final round of the $100,000 Journey To Jordan Tour Championship Wednesday.
At the Greg Norman-designed Ayla Golf Club, Hill submitted a second-round card of three-under par 69 and that took his tally to nine-under par 135, one ahead of the Harry Konig (65), Jamie Rutherford (67), Joshua Grenville-Wood (70) and Sweden’s Gabriel Axell (70). All four professionals are looking for their first win on the MENA Tour.
Sweden’s Henric Sturehed, winner of the Tour Championship when it was last played in 2017, shot a two-under par 70 to take solo sixth place at 137, while Luke Joy stayed in touch with a 71 that gave him the seventh place at 138.
South Africa’s MG Keyser, the Journey to Jordan professional leader, was at four-under par 140 after a 71, but with his nearest challengers Australia’s Daniel Gaunt (73) and England’s James Allan (72) not making any significant move, he looks on course to win the Professional Journey To Jordan (Order of Merit).
The 15-year-old Hill, who beat the record of Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa to become the youngest winner of an OWGR-recognised event last month at the Al Ain Open by Arena, got off to a hot start and was four-under par through seven, and even though his hitting deserted him a bit on the back nine, he managed to make enough birdies to offset his mistakes.
“I was doing everything so well for the first seven holes, and then made a stupid bogey on the ninth. Struggled a bit after that but delighted to finish at three-under on a tough day. I made a three-putt bogey on the 12th hole, but apart from that, I putted really well today and that really saved the day,” said Hill, who made seven birdies and ended with a bogey on 18th.
Hill felt the experience of his Al Ain Open by Arena win, even though he started the final day three shots behind the leader, will help him as he dons the role of a front-runner.
“It will be a different challenge and I think what would definitely help is if I get off to a good start like I did in Al Ain. But that win proved to me that I have what it takes to win a tournament at this level and that would be a good, positive thought in my mind,” he added.
Konig said he was ‘plodding’ along and making some good up-and-downs until he decided to get aggressive on the back nine. The move paid rich dividends as he finished with five birdies in his last six holes for the low round of the day.
“I missed making a birdie on the par-5 17th hole, where I missed a putt from five feet. That was slightly disappointing, but I did make a birdie on the 18th which was playing very tough in this wind. I think it is the first time I have made a birdie on that hole,” said Konig.
The 27-year-old Rutherford came to Jordan having missed getting into the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School by just one shot.
“I did not putt well at all that day in Spain and it was very disappointing. I went back home and mostly did putting for two weeks before coming here. In a sense, it is good that I had this tournament to play and an opportunity to bounce right back,” said Rutherford.
Axell, who lost in a play-off at the Ras Al Khaimah Open by Arena, will try and make amends in Thursday’s final round.
“It’s never good to finish with a bogey, but it wasn’t easy out there. However, I am playing some good golf and there is no reason why I should not finish one better than what I did at Ras Al Khaimah,” said Axell, who made three birdies in a row before making the turn.
Grenville-Wood, who finished second in Bahrain earlier this year, said: “It was a grind out there, especially on the back nine. I am pretty pleased with the way I kept it going and kept hitting steady shots. I made a pretty good par on the 18th. So, one shot back, I will take it.”