RIFFA (Bahrain): it was a proud moment for Saudi Arabian golf and host venue Royal Golf Club when amateur Saud Al Sharif mastered the tough playing conditions on Tuesday to shoot the lowest round of the day and surge to tied second place, just one behind leader David Hague, in the $75,000 Royal Golf Club Bahrain Open.
The 19-year-old Al Sharif, a member of the Saudi National Team, learned his golf at the Royal Golf Club in Bahrain where he has been based for the past 10 years. He used his immense local knowledge to the fullest on a day when strong and swirling wind posed tough questions and shot a six-under par 66. That moved him to tied second place at seven-under par 137, tied with France’s Antoine Schwartz (70).
Hague, who turned pro after MENA Tour by Arena Qualifying School and recently finished runner-up at the NEWGIZA Open in Cairo, was five-under par through his front nine (the back nine of the course), but stumbled on his way back with three bogeys and a double. A birdie on the last helped him close with a 70 and gave him a one-shot cushion going into the final round.
Overnight leader Joel Girrbach (72) of Sweden fell to tied fourth place at six-under par 138 alongside the promising Irishman Ryan Lumsden (67) and resurgent Frenchman Victor Riu (67).
“It is such an amazing day. I had an unbelievable round, my lowest ever on the MENA Tour!” said Al Sharif, who had sensationally made the cut last week in Oman after holing out his second shot on the par-4 17th hole for an eagle and a birdie on the last.
“My putter was on fire. I made putts from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. Come to think of it, my short game was something that was holding me back. I have been working really hard on my putting and chipping with Jamie McConnell at the Claude Harmon Performance Institute in Dubai and it is showing result.
“Of course, I know this golf course better than everyone else. But playing at home also brings a lot of pressure and hopefully, I can handle it tomorrow as well as I did today.”
The consistent Hague drove his opening hole – the reachable par-4 10th – and started in the best possible way with an eagle. He made the turn at five-under par before two three-putts and a poor tee shot on the par-3 seventh led to leaked shots.
“I was playing really well and was 12-under par at one stage. It’s disappointing to finish at two-under, but I am happy that I managed to reach eight-under par. The conditions were quite difficult out there with the wind,” said Hague.
Schwartz, who is looking for his first win on the MENA Tour, was rewarded for his patience with two birdies in his last two holes – the eighth and ninth – both playing very difficult in the wind.
“It was a tough day and I just tried to remain patient. It was a good finish with the two birdies and I am looking forward to tomorrow. Getting into contention is the main thing in golf and if I am within one or two shots of the leader tomorrow going into the back nine, I will be happy and give it my best shot,” said Schwartz, who is a member of the Challenge Tour.
Journey to Jordan leader David Langley made successive eagles on the ninth and 10th holes after making a double bogey on the second hole and was in the group at five-under par.