May 17, 2022

Just $1313 separates Tom Sloman and David Langley as the Journey to Jordan OOM race goes to the wire

By Kent Gray
After traversing nine events, five countries, two continents and a pandemic, the longest single ’season’ in OWGR history has somehow conspired to deliver a nail-biting finale after all. 
Tom Sloman, by a mere $1313, finds himself the home straight hare in the MENA Tour’s 2020+ Journey to Jordan Order of Merit (OOM) race which began the best part of 2.5 years ago and will end, by fate rather than original design, in Phuket, Thailand rather than Aqaba, Jordan.
Fellow Englishman David Langley is the closest hound entering the final event, the $75,000 Blue Canyon Open which starts Wednesday and after 54-holes will see the longest season of all conclude after 837 days.
Technically Bailey Gill all the way down in seventh place in the OOM standings could still be crowned J2J Champion but the more likely outcome is a Sloman-Langley shootout on the Canyon course with perhaps an unlikely late charge by a fourth Englishman, David Hague.
Sloman has the slender advantage courtesy of his runaway five-stroke victory at the Laguna Phuket Challenge, the opening event of this quickfire, four-tournament Beautiful Thailand Swing co-sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT). He’s predictably gone slightly off the boil since with T-16 and T-25 places at the following Laguna Phuket Cup and Blue Canyon Classic respectively but has outearned Langley by $14,686 to $2057 in the three events thus far. Perhaps more critically, Sloman’s stroke average over the nine rounds in Phuket is 66.55 - two full strokes better than Langley.
"Nah, you can’t do anything like that. You’ve just got to worry about yourself and see where that takes you,“ Sloman said when asked if he’d be watching the chasers behind him and specifically Langley. 
"My form obviously dipped a little bit from the first tournament but yeah, just keep it anywhere on the golf course this week and hopefully it will be good. Just try and have a solid week this week and see where it gets me.”
Where overall victory in the J2J would get Sloman is a potentially life-changing invite in one of the Asian Tour’s new $1.5 million-plus International Series events, plus two further ADT starts and exemption to the final stage of Asian Tour Q-School for 2023. 
It goers without saying that Langley is eyeing those incentives too.
"Like anyone else, I really want to win the OOM, I really want to get all the incentives I can from that. Everyone likes winning at the end of the day so I’ll be doing my best for sure,” said Langley.
The 27-year-old hasn’t and won’t crunch the numbers round by round, rather focus on his own game which has produced a pair of T-19 results either side of a T-45th at the Laguna Phuket Cup.
"It’s not something I’ll avoid or not something I’ll look at and study, it’s just something that’s there in the background,” Langley said of the J2J leaderboard.
"I mean I’ll use it more as motivation if I’m going through a tough spell on the golf course for example, I’ll kind of remind myself there’s a bigger picture. I’ll try and use it in whatever positive way I can but ultimately it’s just part of a bigger picture of multiple tournaments.”
Langley is thankful for the Beautiful Thailand Swing’s compact 18-day schedule which has allowed competition starved mini-tour pros a chance to reignite careers stalled by COVID-19.
He’s been pleasantly surprised by his form in Phuket considering his last competitive round was in early December when he finished T-30 at the Laguna Phuket Championship a week after coincidentally missing the cut at the Blue Canyon Championship, also an Asian Tour stop. 
"Speaking to a lot of the guys, the putting has been difficult out here just with the green speeds and the slopes and the grain. I think also with it being the first tournaments of the year, there’s a little bit of rust here and there but overall I’ve played pretty well, just haven’t quite pieced together all the parts of the game during a tournament,” Langley said.
"All the ingredients are there. Most of that is just the little mental things of getting in the rhythm of playing, making the right decisions and re-focusing yourself on the pre-shot routines and all those little key ingredients that when you’re on the range they may not be your priority but once you get playing then they are the things that really matter. 
"You can only really practice those things when you are in tournament conditions so getting those reps in has been huge for me and I think I’ve somewhat pleasantly surprised myself, especially the first week with how I played.
"I think I’m playing well enough to contend.”
Hague ($25,174) is still very much in the hunt at just $3696 behind Sloman ($28,870) but would need to finish at least fourth and hope Sloman and Langley ($27,557) either miss the cut or finish well down the leaderboard.
It would be some reversal of form on both sides of the equation but especially for Hague who has missed the last two cuts and banked just $378.75, minus tax, for his T-48th finish in the BTS-opener.
Gill would likewise need a major change of fortune to become MENA Tour champion. He’s also missed two cuts although will cling on to some hope after finishing T-34 at the Blue Canyon Classic on the club’s adjoining Lakes layout.
Photo courtesy Jason Butler/bgbimages.com