AJMAN — Tyler Hogarty began the defence of his MENA Tour Championship title in style, opening with a solid five-under 67 to lie just one shot off the pace at Al Zorah Golf Club in Ajman on Monday.
The South African mixed eight birdies, including five on the back nine, with three bogeys as England’s Jamie Elson set the early pace, firing a sparkling 66 to stay firmly in contention for the Order of Merit title.
Sweden’s Henric Sturehed posted a 68 that left him alone in third place, one clear of a five-man group that included England’s Stuart Archibald while Luke Joy, currently placed second on the Order of Merit, returned a 70.
“I started off well, making three birdies through sixth and that kind of set the tone for the round. I felt in complete control of my game which was good. Missed a couple of putts here and there, but overall played good golf.
“If you playing well, this course can offer you plenty of scoring opportunities. I made just one bogey which shows I was pretty accurate with my game out there,” said Elson, who finished tied for 34th on one over in Kuwait last year.
“I had a bad week in Kuwait that probably helped me focus better. My preparations for this week were certainly much better. Hope I can keep the momentum going all the way through.”
South African Hogarty was equally pleased with his opening round. “Played some good, solid golf and very happy with my day’s efforts.
“I began with a birdie and finished with a birdie, which was quite pleasing. Everything about the about the course, from fairways to greens, is just perfect,” said Hogarty.
Todd Clements cruised to his familiar place at the top of the leaderboard in the amateur division along with fellow Englishman Sam Hobday after opening with a 67 that included five birdies and three bogeys.
England’s Taylor Carter was a further four shots back, one clear of India’s Arkesh Bhatia on a day when 21 players broke par.
Among the notables, England’s Andrew Marshall moved into a seven-way tie for ninth after carding a 70 as Lee Corfield returned a level-par 72 while Zane Scotland, a 10-time winner on the MENA Tour, settled for 74, leaving himself some catching up to do.
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.
Multiple European Tour starts, including the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Maybank Championship Malaysia, and the KLM Open are some of the added incentives that await the leading MENA Tour stars, in addition to playing privileges on the Sunshine Tour, and exemptions into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour Q-Schools.