AL AIN, October 20: The MENA Tour by Arena players were getting ready for a birdie-fest as the Tour returned to Al Ain Equestrian Shooting and Golf Club for the Al Ain Open by Arena.
The $75,000 tournament starts Monday at the par-70 course, and with no wind protecting the wide, manicured fairways and receptive greens the first two days of ProAm and practice , low scores were being predicted.
The professional course record at the 6,764-yard course is a 63 by Alex Wrigley in the Mercedes-Benz International ProAm in February 2017, while the amateur record is a 61 by Brazilian Herik Machado during the 2017 Faldo Series Grand Final.
Dubai-based 15-year-old amateur Josh Hill flirted with the course record with a 62 in last year’s Faldo Series Middle East Championship. After recording his best ever finish on the MENA Tour by Arena – a tied sixth – in the last tournament at Yas Links Abu Dhabi, he said: “I won’t be surprised if someone shoots a 59 this week.
“If the wind does not pick up and if you are hitting it well off the tee, this course sets you up with plenty of birdie chances and the greens roll really well.”
In the ProAm on Saturday, England’s Taylor Carter made 12 birdies and agreed with Hill.
“I think a 59 is out there, but it does depend on various things, especially the wind. It is not the longest course we play all year and there are a lot of wedge shots out there which you can get close. If it stays calm like this, we can see some very low scores over the next three days,” he added.
England’s James Allan, winner of the Abu Dhabi Open by Arena at Yas Links, said the golf course can play two ways.
“You can obviously go low here, but the players will have to be wary of not getting frustrated if they do not get off to a good start. If you don’t get a few birdies on the front nine, many players will start pushing harder on the back nine, and it can have a negative effect,” said the 25-year-old from Chelmsford, who takes the next week off from MENA Tour to participate in the Second Stage of European Tour Qualifying School.
“It is a crucial week for me as far as winning the Journey to Jordan on the MENA Tour is concerned. I have only this week and then the Arena Championship to catch up with the leaders. But it is not what I am going to focus on – I am just hoping to continue playing good golf and hopefully, the results will take care of everything.”
The MENA Tour by Arena continues 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.