Daniel Owen matched the day’s best score of 68 to charge back into contention after the second and penultimate round of the American Express Dirab Golf Championship, the third event on the 2012 MENA Golf Tour, on Tuesday.
The talented Englishman mixed five birdies, including three on the front nine, with a lone bogey on the 10th to catch up with William Harold at the top of the leaderboard at five under 139, one shot ahead of England’s Ian Keenan and Morocco’s leading amateur Amine El Malki, who is producing his own storybook rounds.
Harold held his nerve to maintain his overnight one-stroke lead with a 71, but fellow joint leaders Shafiq Masih and Scotland’s Duncan Stewart surrendered their early advantage, signing off with identical rounds of 74.
Scotland’s Gavin Dear, who shot a 68 along with England’s Daniel Wardrop, was placed fifth on a three-under 141.
With just three shots separating the top 12, the final day’s proceedings in the $50,000 championship, being held under the patronage of HRH Nawaf bin Faisal bin Fahad Al Saud, head of Saudi Arabia’s Youth Welfare Presidency, promises to unfold a thrilling finish.
The eclectic mix of contenders includes Zane Scotland, the former European Tour player, Asian Tour regular Yasin Ali and Morocco’s Faycal Serghini, who are all in red figures going into the final round.
In the amateur division, El Malki further consolidated his lead with rounds of 69 and 71, a good six shots ahead of Saudi Arabia’s Faisal Salhab and fellow countryman Mustapha El Maouas.
The cut was made at nine-over-par 153 with a total of 52 players, including 10 amateurs, making it to the final round.
Starting the day three shots off the pace, Owen wasted no time in seizing the momentum when he holed a big breaking putt for a birdie on the opening hole.
“That curling eight-foot birdie putt kind of soothed my nerves and pretty much set the tone for a good round,” said Owen, who is currently placed 22nd on the Order of Merit standings with $ 1,406 in earnings from the first two events.
“The course is in pretty good shape. Obviously there are spots you have to pay attention. The greens are tricky, but you just have to figure out a way to make putts. This is a layout which requires precision and punishes mistakes,” he added
“It feels nice to be in this position going into the final round, but 18 holes are still left to be played. I will go out tomorrow and try and play my own game. I am feeling pretty comfortable with game. If I continue with the same vein, I think I can expect a good finish,” he added.
Pakistan’s Masih, who worked as a teaching pro at the Dirab Golf and Country in 2008, felt his putter let him down.”I hit 15 greens, but three putted on two holes and that blew up what would been another solid round,” he said.
A new initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Golf Tour is affiliated to R&A and the Arab Golf Federation. The six-stop tour, which is backed by Omega and Mercedes-Benz, boasts a combined prize fund of $325,000.
Leading scores after the second round:
139 – Daniel Owen (England) 71 68; William Harrold (England) 68 71
140 – Ian Keenan (England) 71 69; Amine El Malki (amateur-Morocco) 69 71
141 – Gavin Dear (Scotland) 73 68
142 – Shafiq Masih (Pakistan) 68 74, Zane Scotland (England) 69 73; Craig Smith (Wales) 73 69; Duncan Stewart (Scotland) 68 74; Faycal Serghini (Morocco) 71 71
143 – Yasin Ali (England) 71 72; Daniel Wardrop (England) 75 68
140 – Amine El Malki (amateur-Morocco) 69 71
146 – Faisal Salhab (Saudi Arabia) 73 73; Mustapha El Maouas (Morocco) 72 74
148 – Michael Harradine (Switzerland) 74 74