MUSCAT: Englishman Paul Waring got off to the perfect start in his bid to finally enter the European Tour winner’s circle with a blistering opening round of seven under 65 at Al Mouj Golf while fellow countryman Matthew Southgate got in the mix in the most spectacular fashion to join him at the top of the leaderboard as the eagerly anticipated inaugural NBO Oman Open got under way in Muscat.
Waring is in his 11th season on the European Tour and despite a string of top finishes, a maiden title has so far eluded the 33-year-old former English Amateur Champion. But he played like a seasoned champion on a beautiful first day in Oman as he strung together an “effortless” bogey free round which included seven birdies, including a delightful 35-foot putt on the first hole (his 10th having started on the 10th).
“I felt really in control today,” said Waring. “I hit a lot of solid golf shots and didn’t really make any mistakes off the tee and just made it as easy as I could for myself. I holed a few good putts, missed a few chances too but that’s golf. I took advantage of the par fives, and think I birdied all of them — I didn’t have a five on my card actually which is always a nice way to start on a Thursday.”
The man from Birkenhead echoed the sentiments of his fellow players when he described the Greg Norman designed layout as “one of the best courses we’ve played,” adding, “I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to get over here to be honest with you. It’s a fantastic design, a great place and the weather is stunning as well. The setting is perfect here in Muscat, with a lovely mountainous back drop and then the course right down by the sea front. It’s a beautiful golf course, a good test and great surfaces so you can’t fault it.”
Southgate, meanwhile, produced a moment of magic with a hole in one at the par three fifth hole to move one off the lead before a birdie at the eighth, his penultimate hole of the day, saw him join Waring at the top.
“It was really good, but kind of a weird way to shoot 65,” said Southgate, who also had an ace at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic last month. “I missed a few close-distance chances but then I holed two really long putts and had a hole in one so I think 65 was how I played. It was a funny way to get that score but I’m over the moon with that start.”
Daan Huizing put his local knowledge to perfect use as he fired an impressive six under 66 to sit in second place.
The Dutch Challenge Tour player has played in the event’s predecessor, the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, for each of the past three years and also spent time practising at Al Mouj Golf over the winter.
Having received an invite to play this week, the 27-year-old made the most of the opportunity as he carded seven birdies and just one bogey.
“It’s a course you can’t really overpower and it demands all the shots,” Huizing, who won twice on the Challenge Tour in 2013 to graduate to the European Tour where he played for one season in 2014.
“I like a bit of wind as well, you have to hit some shots working the wind a little bit. I just know what I need to do here and I feel comfortable on this course. Bring on three more good rounds.
“I have a good relationship with the people here. Through the years when we’ve played here (with the Challenge Tour) I’ve always been in good touch with them. The relationship between me and the club is good and they were happy to have me here.”
Meanwhile, after what was by his own admission a disappointing season in 2017, English Ryder Cup star Andy Sullivan continued his revival with a five under 67 to lie in a tie for third with fellow countryman Callum Shinkwin and France’s Raphael Jacquelin.
“The start of this year the game has come back,” he said.
Meanwhile, local hero Steven Troup, a teaching pro at Al Mouj Golf and coach of the Oman National Team, shot five over 77 while Azaan al Rumhy, whom Troup coaches on the National Team, is the leading amateur at eight over par.
The second round gets under way at Al Mouj Golf on Friday at 6.55 am off the first and tenth tees.