DUBAI (UAE): MG Keyser protected his lead in brilliant fashion, playing solid golf and making clutch putts to win the Troon Series – Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines by four shots on Thursday.
At Dubai Hills Golf Club, the South African had a simple gameplan going into the final round with a two-shot lead courtesy his record-breaking 61 on Wednesday (the lowest round on MENA Tour by Arena in relation to par) – avoid bogeys.
And he almost did that but for a solitary dropped shot on the 13th hole. However, five birdies ensured a card of four-under par 68 for the Dubai resident, taking his total to 19-under par 197, four better than second-placed Matthew Baldwin of England (70).
Frenchman Antoine Schwartz (72) could not get going on the back nine and finished third at 13-under par, with Sweden’s Henric Sturehed (69) fourth at 11-under.
In the Amateur category, there was a tie at the top between England’s Ben Davies (73) and compatriot Jack Floydd (72) at four-under par 212.
Baldwin, winner of the B Stage of Qualifying School and Journey To Jordan-1, the inaugural event of the 2019 season, kept it interesting until the end before an unfortunate bogey on the difficult par-3 17th hole proved crucial.
The 32-year-old from Southport had a poor third hole where he made a double bogey, but did not give up. He kept chipping at Keyser’s lead and on the 17th tee, the duo was separated by just one shot.
But Baldwin’s three-iron tee shot got caught in the stiff headwind and came up short, wedged in the rocks fronting the water. He had to take a drop and made a bogey. On the other hand, Keyser smashed a 4-iron safely to 25 feet and made the putt to go ahead by three.
A bogey by Baldwin on the last hole, where Keyser laid up into the fairway bunker and then hit a beautiful third shot to three feet, ensured the final score.
“I knew it would be difficult to follow the 61 with a low round again. So, I told myself to just avoid making any bogeys and then I’d be hard to catch, especially if the wind picks up. And that’s exactly what happened,” said Keyser, who earned $13,500 and an invitation to play the Slovakia Challenge on European Challenge Tour for his third MENA Tour by Arena title.
“Both Matthew and Antoine were playing very well and it got tight towards the end. But that birdie on the 17th was the deal-sealer. It was a nice, low-spinning four-iron there. I have just changed my shafts in my irons and the new ones really helped me out there in the wind.
“It’s a great feeling. I have won at least once every year since 2016 and it is great to get a ‘W’ so early in the year. This is going to do be great for my season.”
Baldwin may have lost the chance to win a second title this season, but he was pleased for Keyser and also the way he fought back from the double bogey on the third hole.
“It was not to be today and MG played great golf, but at least I pushed him until the 17th hole,” said the Englishman who continues to lead the Journey To Jordan (Order of Merit).
“I was first up on the 17th and I knew it was a three-iron for me but not sure if it was a full three-iron or a knock-down. The double at third was all right. I had a lot of golf to play after that and I did manage to come back from that.”
The par-72 Dubai Hills Golf Club is the latest addition to the growing portfolio of golf courses in Dubai. Situated in the Dubai Hills estate with breathtaking views of Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai, the course is designed by European Golf Design and managed by Emaar Hospitality.
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.