DUBAI — Dubai resident MG Keyser rode a blistering back nine to set a new course record with a sizzling 10-under 61 as 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke opened with a solid 68 heading into the second round of the MENA Tour’s Dubai Creek Open on Monday.
South African Keyser caught fire after making the turn at two under, reeling off six birdies and an eagle in a stunning display of golf that left the field marvelling in awe at his appetite for action.
His sparkling career-best effort left Clarke’s playing partner Fredrik From of Sweden and England’s Stuart Archibald three shots adrift in a share of second on a day when a raft of red-figure rounds marked the opening day’s proceedings despite hot and humid conditions.
Australia’s Peter Stojanovski and Teagan Moore of South Africa were tied for fourth on five-under, one ahead of a five-man group that included India’s Abhishek Jha, who produced the shot of the day, acing the 155-yard par-3, fifth with a nine-iron.
“Played a good, solid round and didn’t make any stupid mistakes out there. Just kind of everything fell together, ball striking, putting. I am really enjoying my golf, especially for the last couple of months, said Keyser, who eclipsed the previous course record jointly held by Clarke, Lee Westwood and Australia’s Benjamin Eccles by two shots.
“The course is in great condition with greens running so true and so perfect which makes putting a little bit easier,” said the South African who eagled the 13th, smashing his 6-iron approach to within three feet.
Holding any part of history at any great course such as Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club is an accomplishment, but Keyser is trying not to get ahead of himself and simply hoping to play well again and see where that leaves him.
"I’ll just go and play, try and play the same way as I played today I hope and see what the outcome is," said Keyser who turned professional in 2013.
Taking a relaxed attitude into the Dubai Creek Open worked well for Archibald, who went bogey-free, highlighted by an eagle on the 10th to stay in contention.
“I haven’t played competitive golf for the last three months and so had no high expectations of myself. I just went out there, hoping to keep mistakes to a minimum. Making an eagle on the 10th from the waste area on the 10th really kicked started my round,” said the Englishman, who played the back nine at five under.
Sweden’s From, who also produced a flawless 64, felt he played a solid tee-to-green golf and holed some nice putts. “The greens are too good, which makes it quite a scoreable golf course,” said the 28-year-old, who is a regular on the MENA Tour.
Elsewhere, defending champion Rayhan Thomas left himself a fair bit work to do after a returning a 70 while England’s Zane Scotland, a two-time winner of the Dubai Creek Open, settled for a 73 as UAE’s Ahmed Almusharrekh carded a three-under 68.
“I was off to a slow start with two bogeys in the first three holes, thanks to a cold putter. Though I played the back nine at two-under, it wasn’t good enough. I need to shoot at least six or seven under to haul myself back into contention,” said the Dubai Creek prodigy, who was paired with Clarke.
“It was fun playing with Darren. He is such a great guy. He really hit the ball well, but just couldn’t hole anything,” he said.
An initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Tour was created in 2011 with the aim of developing golf in the region. It is affiliated to R&A, the worldwide golf governing body based in the home of golf, St Andrews, and the Arab Golf Federation and enjoys the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) status.
A guaranteed spot on the PGA Tour’s 2018 DEAN & DELUCA Invitational (for the MENA Tour champion), multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Maybank Championship Malaysia, and the KLM Open, are some of the added incentives that await MENA Tour members, in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour, and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour Q-Schools.