Chris Cannon fired a career-best 67 to make the strongest possible statement about the standard of the MENA Golf Tour in the opening round of the inaugural Dubai Open at the Els Club on Thursday. Playing in his first Asian Tour event, Cannon was the only player near the top of the leaderboard to go bogey-free as Australia’s Kalem Richardson, riding on five birdies and an eagle against one bogey, moved atop the leaderboard on six-under 66.
Cannon shares second place along with Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert, Lam Chih Bing of Singapore and another MENA Golf Tour member, England’s Craig Hinton, while veteran Singaporean Mardan Mamat, Thailand’s Pariya Junhasavasdikul and the Australian duo of Scott Barr and Nathan Holman all shot 68 to stay amongst the early leaders in the final tournament of the 2014 Asian Tour season.
Prom Meesawat of Thailand, who needs a win this week to claim second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, signed for a 71, while 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke birdied his last hole for a 72.
“I just played really solid golf, simple as that. I feel my game is good and if I continue to play the same way, I definitely stand a chance of a good result,” said Cannon, who turned pro in 2009.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. Good players will shoot good scores and compete well, and there are a lot of good players on the MENA Tour now, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if one of us wins it this week or gets some good results,” said the 27-year-old Englishman.
“Being a member of the MENA Golf Tour, I feel really proud to competing in the DUBAi Open, which, unsurprisingly, has attracted a number of top players. To have a tournament of this stature, especially at a great venue like The Els Club, is great. It’s a testament to the great golf on offer in Dubai and the MENA Golf Tour,” said Cannon, who has set his sights on Asian Tour Qualifying School next month.
Richardson was delighted his decision to take it easy in Dubai following a five-week tournament stretch as it paid off with a strong start. “I played pretty solidly. It was a pretty crazy day for me. Playing golf in Dubai, it’s amazing really, you just look around and see the scenery and you’re just enjoying yourself and I’m feeling pretty relaxed being the last event of the year and Christmas being next week,” he said.
“I’ve been playing solid, just the last couple weeks I’ve been a bit tired and this week I’ve taken a different approach and basically haven’t done anything for three days. I hadn’t actually seen the course, so I was playing blind today. It’s kind of a relaxed week but it would also be nice to contend again.”
25-year-old Pavit, who won this season’s Asian Development Tour Order of Merit following three victories, soared with two eagles, one of which was achieved by holing a 170-yard eight iron on the par five 18th.
“The first one (on 13) I hit it from 280 yards to around 10 feet, but on 18 I hit a bad drive into the bunker and then laid up, and had 170 to the pin, I hit an eight iron that went in. It’s big confidence from there,” said the Thai.
“I just want to play to gain experience and learn from the players because I think the standard and quality here is quite different from the ADT. I’m looking forward to playing full time on the Asian Tour next year.”
Elsewhere, Morocco’s Younes El Hassani shot a two-under 70 to join England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, who is also a ‘golf in DUBAi’ ambassador, and Angelo Que of the Philippines in a tie for 15th as the English duo of Zane Scotland and Joshua White settled for one-under 71.
The DUBAi Open is promoted and organised by golf in DUBAi.