Dubai: Straight from the airport to the golf course and onto the front page of the leaderboard. Matt Fitzpatrick, by his own admission, enjoyed his very first outing on the Mena Golf Tour on Monday.
One of the most exciting young prospects in world golf, Fitzpatrick, who posted a creditable solo eighth at the Challenge Tour’s Kazakhstan Open on Sunday, arrived just a couple of hours before his tee time, but showed no signs of panic as he opened with a solid one-under-par 71 at the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open to move into a tie for 14th.
That left the Golf in Dubai ambassador four shots adrift of leaders Jake Shepherd of England, Paul Doherty of Scotland and Spain’s Patrick Simard, who all shot matching five-under 67s on a hot and humid day when 15 players broke par.
Germany’s Bernhard Neumann and Gary Munro of England shared the fourth a further shot back at four-under, one ahead of experienced Yasin Ali and two off a seven-man grouping which included UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh.
“I have come here with the sole purpose of enjoying my golf which I did today, The weather was nice, though it was a bit warm out there. The course is really nice,” said the 20-year-old Sheffield-born prodigy, who is the first golfer since Bobby Jones in 1930 to concurrently hold the low amateur medals for the Open Championship and US Open.
“I started off pretty well, going three under after five holes, but four-putted the par-3, 11th. On the back nine, I didn’t hole that many putts as I would have liked to. On the whole, I enjoyed my day,” said the Englishman, who birdied the 18th to move into red figures.
Defending champion Zane Scotland returned a level par. “It was quite boring out there, just one bogey and one birdie and that says it all,” said Scotland, who is also Golf in Dubai ambassador.
An eagle finish propelled Al Musharrekh to the top of the tree at two-under 70 in the MENA Division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundations Award, which recognises the performance of the top three region’s professionals and amateurs from their respective divisions in each event.
The UAE’s only professional, who made a confident birdie-birdie start, double-bogeyed the par-5 fifth, but ended the round with a flourish, hitting his 3-wood approach on the 18th 256 yards to about 15 feet from cup and holed the long eagle putt without any fuss.
“That 3-wood was probably the best shot I ever struck in a Mena Golf Tour event. Though I did drop some shots midway through my round, overall, I played really well and feeling quite confident heading into the second round,” said Al Musharrekh who finished in a tie for 14th at last week’s Dubai Creek Open.
The Moroccan duo of Faycal Serghini and Ahmed Marjan shot an identical level to share the second place in the Mena Division, one shot ahead of compatriot Younes El Hassani.
Elsewhere, the winner of last week’s Dubai Creek Open, Luke Joy, carded a bogey-free 70 and Joshua White, the current Order of Merit leader, settled for a 73.
Meanwhile, a golf a clinic for young enthusiasts was held at the Driving Range of Al Badia Golf, featuring instructions and exhibitions by leading Mena Golf Tour professionals which included James Housby, Tyler Hogarty and Ahmed-Reda Rhazal.
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