CHON BURI (Thailand), May 18 — Wielding a hot putter, Jose Ignacio Marin Casado rode a blistering start on Thursday to open up a two-shot lead heading into the final round of the MENA Tour’s Pattana Golf Championship which has been reduced to 36 holes due to bad weather.
The Spaniard ace, starting from the 10th tee, rattled off six birdies in a row from the 11th en route to a sizzling eight-under 64 as Thailand’s Nakul Vichitryuthasastr went bogey-free to occupy solo second on six under.
England’s Jodan Garnish and Udayan Mane of India fired matching 67s that left the duo sharing third a further shot adrift, one clear of a seven-man group which included Venezuela’s Wolmer Murillo, the winner of the MENA Tour’s Mountain Creek Open by Golf Citizen last year.
“It was an amazing round with nine birdies. My putting was crazy as I made six birdies from holes 11-16 and another three on the front nine. This is my first year playing on the MENA Tour and I am really enjoying the atmosphere as there is a tremendous sense of camaraderie among the players,” said Casado.
Experienced Nakul also lit up the back nine with five birdies before picking up another shot on the first to stay in contention for his maiden title on the MENA Tour.
‘Played a good, solid round. I had an early start and benefited from the lack of wind,” said Nakul,’ who turned professional in 2006 after an impressive amateur career which saw him represent Thailand in the Putra Cup and the Eisenhower Trophy.
India’s Mane also kept it clean, reeling off two birdies on the front nine and three coming home for a share of second. “I drove the ball really well which gave me enough chances to hit greens.
“It was a bit waterlogged in a few places, but it’s our duty as players to adjust to the course. The greens were surprisingly really quick and it caught me off guard on a few holes, but I was able to salvage pars,” said the Bangaluru native, who won a Professional Golf Tour of India’s event in Dhaka in March.
Elsewhere, European Tour regular Prom Meesawat returned a 70 to move into a 16-way tie for 16th along with England’s Zane Scotland, a 10-time winner on the MENA Tour, and Luke Joy, who finished runner-up at last week’s Mountain Creek Open by Golf Citizen.
Brazil’s Dubai-based prodigy Tiago Lobo mixed five birdies with an eagle and four bogeys to lead the amateur division on a 69, three shots ahead of fast-improving Indian star Arkesh Bhatia, who is also based in Dubai.
The cut was made at level-par 72 with 58 professionals and seven amateurs making it to the final round. English cricketer-turned-golfer Craig Kieswetter (73) was among the notables who missed out on the halfway mark.
An initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Golf 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 Hassan II Trophy, 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.