MENA Golf Tour Order of Merit leader Peter Richardson will make his run at the season-ending Tour Championship on Monday, attempting to become the first back-to-back winner on the Tour and end his campaign with a flourish at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club.
The first three events on the Tour have produced three different winners, but the script could well change if the in-form Englishman can keep the momentum rolling all the way through in the ‘Garden City of the UAE’.
A lack of ‘local knowledge’ could be bliss for him as playing a practice round, like almost everyone in the field, has been his only experience of the venue before this week. But he has already spectacularly proved he can prosper in a foreign environment, following up his tied third-place at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic with an emphatic four-shot victory at the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open at Al Badia Golf Club last week.
The 27-year-old Challenger Tour regular is placed in a marquee three-ball that includes Zane Scotland and Ross Canavan, the winners of the first two events on the MENA Golf Tour, the Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open and the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, respectively. They will be the last to tee off at 11.30am.
Nothing can be taken for granted in this Tour Championship, which boasts a prize fund of $75,000 (Dh275,475), as the top 39 professionals and 15 amateurs from their respective Orders of Merit will go all out to have a one final crack at the huge prizes at stake. The top three professionals and the leader amateur will be invited to compete in the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic – and possibly at the King Hassan II Trophy, also a European Tour event.
There will be no cut for the Tour Championship and that will provide competitors one more chance to make up lost ground.
The winners of the first three events won’t be the only players under the spotlight, Morocco’s Faical Serghini, Asian Tour vetern Yasin Ali, Canada’s Lindsay Renolds and a slew of Pakistan players like Shahid Murataza Ahmed, Aadil Jehangir, Matloob Ahmed and Shafiq Masih, among others, are all experienced enough to spring a surprise on their day.
Renolds provided a glimpse of his talent with a 64, a Mena Golf Tour record, he shot on the final day of the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open to finish runner-up to Richardson while Yasin, a runner-up to Scotland in Abu Dhabi, will be out to make amends for his disappointing tied 15th place in Dubai.
The Pakistani players have excelled in patches, and if they can bring consistency to their play, they could pose a serious threat to the title contenders.
The Moroccans are dominating the amateur category with three of their players occupying the top four spots on the Order of Merit. Ahmed Marjan leads the pack with 89 points from the first three events, followed closely by Bahrain-based Englishman Daniel Owen (86). UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh, playing his first even on the Tour, made an immediate impact, topping the amateur division in the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open with rounds of 72, 71 and 74.
Al Musharrekh, who missed out on the first two Tour events owning his engagements with the UAE National Team, will have to produce something special if he aims to make lost ground. And he is ready for it. “The aim is to win the championship. Whatever happens, happens,” he said.