Faycal Serghini made a confident start to the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open, the second event on the 2014 MENA Golf Tour schedule, firing a four-under-par 69 in Tuesday’s opening round.
Picking up where he left off last week, the leading Moroccan pro reeled off six birdies, including four on the back nine, to take a one-shot over England’s James Housby with Englishman Ross McGowan and France’s Edouard Espana taking a share of third on two-under 71.
Among the notables, defending champion Zane Scotland of England settled for a 1-under 72 while last week’s winner Joshua White returned a six-over 79 that leaves him a good 10 shots off the lead going into the second round while Stephen Dodd of Wales carded a level par 73.
On a day when many players struggled to tame the 7,330-yard Red course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, which was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Serghini was a model of consistency, finding fairways and greens in regulation, a testament to his growing confidence and maturity.
“It was a good day at work. Played very steady golf and made three in birdies in a row from the 14th which kind of lifted my round,” said the Casablanca native.
“I felt good with my putter and it did a pretty decent job, even though I three-putted the 12th. You just can’t complain after shooting a 69, which is my favourite number.
“The course is in immaculate condition, the best I have seen for many years,” said the experienced Moroccan, who finished runner-up to England’s White despite having a four-shot lead with four holes to play in last week’s Royal D’Anfa Open.
“He (White) played better than I did, simple as that. I shot a 67 in the final round, which shows I also played some solid golf that day.
“This time it could be my turn, you never know. I will try and give my shot and see what happens,” said the 39-year-old, who turned pro in 2000.
England’s Scotland said: “It wasn’t too bad a round. I made a birdie on the (206-metre) par-3, which was good since it’s one of the toughest holes on the course.
“The course is playing fantastically, it’s just that it’s tough to make birdies out there with the length of the course and the small greens,” said the Englishman who last year posted a 10-under score to win the tournament by a good five shots.
Echoing a similar feeling was his compatriot McGowan. “I played okay, and finished strongly with three birdies in a row, which was nice. The wind was gusting and swirling, so life wasn’t easy out there. You need to drive the ball well here which I did, but didn’t make that many putts early in the round,” said McGowan, the winner of the 2009 Madrid Masters on the European Tour.
“Overall, it was a good day. At the end of the day, its golf; sometimes you do well and sometimes you don’t. Simple as that,” said McGowan, his efforts were undermined somewhat by a double bogey on the par-4, sixth.
England’s James Allan leads the amateur division thanks to a steady 74, one ahead of Morocco’s Mehdi Saissi and two of Karim El Hali and Ayoub Lguirati, also of Morocco.