DUBAI (UAE): Frenchman Antoine Schwartz played a stunning round of 10-under par 62 in tough conditions at Dubai Hills Golf Club on Tuesday to open up a five-shot lead in the Troon Series – Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines after the first round.
Despite playing in a steady afternoon wind, the 29-year-old Parisian went on a birdie binge and was an incredible 11-under par through his first 12 holes. That included nine birdies and an eagle from 30 feet on the par-5 11th hole.
A late bogey on the 16th hole put paid to his hopes of shooting the first-ever 59 on the MENA Tour by Arena, but the 62 was good enough for a five-shot advantage over England’s Benjamin David, Scotland’s Craig Ross and Dutchman Pierre Junior Verlaar (all 67s).
Seven players were tied for fifth place at four-under par 68. That included Zane Scotland, the most successful player in the history of MENA Tour with 10 wins; Luke Joy, who had to pull out of last week’s tournament at Ghala Golf Club after a suspected case of food poisoning and Matthew Baldwin, leader of the Journey To Jordan (Order of Merit) and winner of the inaugural event of the season at Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan.
In the Amateur category, England’s Jack Floydd was the best with a two-under par 70, followed by his compatriots Curtis Knipes and Ben Davies (both 71).
Schwartz’s effort matched the lowest round ever on the Tour, previously held by South Africa’s MG Keyser and India’s Rayhan Thomas (both 61, 2017 Dubai Creek Open). It also matched the largest 18-hole lead, which was what Zane Scotland enjoyed at the 2013 Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open.
Schwartz, who topped the Pro Golf Tour Order of Merit in 2016 and qualified for the European Challenge Tour last year, was two-under par after four holes with birdies on the first and third, before unleashing a flurry of stunning shots over the next eight holes.
He birdied seven of them and eagled the 11th before cooling down. The bogey on par-4 16th, where he hit a wedge shot from the middle of the fairway into the greenside bunker and failed to make his up-and-down was his only mistake of the day. The 10-under par 62 round was his best as a professional, bettering an eight-under par 62 four years ago in Austria.
“It was just an unbelievable day. I hit so many good shots today. Everything was just perfect,” said Schwartz, playing his first season on the MENA Tour.
“Of course, you are thinking about a 59. The last five-six holes here are tough, and even more in the windy conditions that we faced almost throughout the day. I just tried to stay aggressive and I even gave myself a couple of chances, but it was not to be.
“I’d love to shoot 62 every day, but this one was very special because the golf course wasn’t playing easy because of the wind.”
Schwartz hit 16 greens in regulation and needed just 24 putts to finish his round.
“I was doing everything well, but I think the key was that I did not miss a single putt from inside four meters (12 feet),” said Schwartz.
“I spoke to my coach, Guillaume Biaugeaud, last night and I told him that I felt I was getting too technical over my putts. He told me to just concentrate on the speed and hit my putt and not to think about the line. It worked.”
As part of MENA Tour’s commitment to enhance the playing opportunity for its members, the champion this week gets an invite to the Slovakia Challenge (July 4-7), on European Challenge Tour.
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.