Rayhan Thomas continued his sensational form as he carded a flawless five-under par 67 to surge to the top of the leaderboard at the end of the opening day of the Golf Citizen Classic at The Els Club Dubai Monday.
Two weeks after becoming the youngest, as well as the only amateur champion in the MENA Golf Tour history, 16-year-old Thomas was in contention once again, finishing the day tied with Pakistan’s Shahid Javed and England’s Craig Hinton.
Thomas and Javed both went bogey free while Hinton countered an early bogey on the second hole with three birdies in a row and then picked up three more shots as the trio moved one clear at the top.
Morocco’s Ahmed Marjan, Spain’s Carlos Balmaseda, Luke Joy of England, Per Barth of Sweden and rising amateur Scottish star Daniel Hendry were grouped in the chasing pack after 68 each.
Defending champion Clarke Lutton of Scotland was in a four-man group a further shot back on three-under par 69 alongside Wira Salleh of Brunei, Scott Campbell of England and Alex Messiqua of Switzerland as 26 players broke par on day one.
Thomas, who won the Emirates Golf Federation’s Amateur Order of Merit last year, was pleased with his day’s work and said: “I played very solid golf throughout again. Hope I can keep the momentum going. So far so good.”
Thomas, who won the prestigious Scottish Boys title this summer, boasts a second, third, first and ninth place finish in his last four MENA Golf Tour events.
Thomas can expect a strong challenge from Hendry, who, like him, learned the basics of the game at the Junior Development Programme while growing up in Dubai.
“I think I hit all the fairways and didn’t make any major mistake out there. I felt my iron game was pretty good which led to aggressive golf,” said the 22-year-old, who won the prestigious Shaikh Rashid Trophy in 2011.
“Making a birdie on the long par-3 17th was the highlight of my round. I hit my four-iron to within six feet which was quite pleasing.”
Morocco’s Marjan started strongly, making the turn at three-under. Three birdies and two bogeys highlighted his back nine.
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