Shiv Kapur led a stunning Indian assault on the leaderboard with a second round six-under 66 to claim a share of the lead as a strong contingent of 11 MENA Golf Tour players, spearheaded by Joshua White, made the cut at the DUBAi Open, the Asian Tour’s final event of the year, at The Els Club on Friday.
Kapur, who holed his second shot from 190 yards with a six iron for an eagle on his very first hole, joined Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert atop the leaderboard on seven-under, one ahead of the Indian duo of Arjun Atwal and Ganganjeet Bhullar, Simon Yates of Scotland and Wang Jeung-hun of Korea.
England’s White, the reigning MENA Tour champion, followed his opening 71 with a 68, reaching five-under for the tournament to share seventh place with Daisuke Kataoka of Japan and Prom Meesawat of Thailand.
But Kapur and Tangkamolprasert will be the players to catch as the third round gets underway; “I played solid golf out there. Holing your second shot on the first hole is always a great way to start the day. I pretty much just eliminated mistakes on my card. Just one bogey in two rounds shows that. I may not have made tons of putts or birdies, but when you keep bogeys off the card, you’re usually going to be there or thereabouts,” said Kapur.
Thailand’s Tangkamolprasert had his chance to take the outright lead, but a double-bogey on the 16th undermined his efforts. “I’m very happy with my performance today. I hit good irons creating a lot of birdie chances, but had one bad hole and that wasn’t pleasing,” he said.
Atwal conjured some of his old magic, carding a bogey-free 65, the best score of the tournament thus far that vaulted him up the leaderboard.
“It felt really good, actually – like the old days,” smiled 41-year-old Atwal, a former Asian Tour number one and the first Indian winner to play on the PGA Tour. “No mistakes, no bogeys, just solid golf. The course was playing easier than yesterday afternoon – a good score was gettable.”
Crowd favourite Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland was cruising at three-under par but a double bogey on his last for a 71 leaves him six off the pace. golf in DUBAi ambassador, Matt Fitzpatrick of England, recorded another solid round of a 71 to stay in contention at three-under.
MENA Golf Tour players had a glint in their eyes as they made tremendous gains with 11 out of 24 making it to the weekend, “To be honest I am not really surprised to see so many MENA Golf Tour players doing well,” said White.
“They are all very good players, even the amateurs that play on the tour are very good. As you can tell from here, there’s not that much difference. But it’s really good to see, and a lot of the Arab players going through as well. The game is progressing in the region, which is really good. So no, I’m not too surprised.”
It’s a tribute to the fighting quality of Morocco’s Younes El Hassani, who played through severe lower back pain and still carded a steady 74, moving into a tie for 46 on level par. “After nine holes, I thought of quitting, but I kept pushing myself and it worked.
“Now that the pressure of making the cut is off I can go all out for top 10 or top 20 over the weekend, I just hope my back holds up,” said El Hassani, one of two Arab players along with amateur compatriot Mehdi Saissi, who have made the cut.
“Whatever the result, the experience of playing in my first Asian Tour event is something which will benefit me in the future,” he said.
The halfway cut was set at 145 with 66 players making it to the weekend. Notables who will not play the weekend, included England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who needed a 16th place finish to break into top-50 in the world, and former Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion, David Howell.
MENA Golf Tour players who made the cut are: Joshua White, Luke Joy, Zane Scotland, Lee Corfield, Matt Fitzpatrick, Chris Cannon, Stuart Archibald (all England), Carlos Balmaseda (Spain), Younes El Hassani (Morocco), Mehdi Saissi (Amateur – Morocco) and Tyler Hogarty (South Africa).Pic caption: England’s Joshua White leading the MENA Golf Tour challenge at the DUBAi Open