Tom Lewis posted an eight under par round of 64 to take a one shot lead after the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Challenge, while the UAE’s No.1 Ahmad Skaik got off to a solid start on his Challenge Tour debut.
Englishman Lewis birdied two of his final three holes to take the outright lead, one ahead of Dubai resident Joshua Grenville-Wood and Frenchman Julien Sale, who both carded seven under par rounds of 65.
“It’s obviously a great start,” said Lewis. “I haven’t shot a score like that around this course. Conditions were perfect. There wasn’t too much breeze and it’s so warm here that the ball is going an extra club length. It was great to be out there.
“My putting was really nice. That’s usually something that’s been my Achilles heel but today I holed putts when it mattered. I holed some lengthy putts and I holed some good mid-range ones too. That’s probably the big difference from shooting eight under and being level par around here.”
Spaniard Ivan Cantero Gutierrez posted a six under par round of 66 to move into fourth place on six under par at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Road to Mallorca Number One Ugo Coussaud continued his strong start to the season as he posted a five under par round of 67 to move into a share of fifth place alongside Swedish duo Joel Sjoholm and Niklas Lemke, Italian Andrea Pavan and South African Brandon Stone.
Skaik, who recently returned from injury to successfully defend the Presidents Cup title at this week’s venue, carded ten consecutive pars before picking up his first shot of the day at the second, having started on the back nine.
The Emirati went on to nearly make eagle on the fifth before tapping in for birdie to get to two under for the day. But he dropped back to one under par after making his first, and only, bogey of the day on the seventh, before coming home with a pair of pars to sign for an impressive 71 on the National Course.
“I hit the ball okay, my irons were curving a lot to the right, so I didn’t feel comfortable with that,” said Skaik. “But my putting was really good, I felt very confident in that and made some really good up and downs. I hit some poor tee shots and had to scramble a lot. Two birdies and one bogey to finish up, although my birdie on the fifth was so nearly an eagle!”
Meanwhile, Louis Gaughan, a local golf coach at Dubai Hills Golf Club, mixed three bogeys with three birdies to shoot a level par 72 in the capital. The Scotsman is making his Challenge Tour debut this week after winning the Emirates PGA Championship last week to secure an invitation from the Emirates Golf Federation.
“I got off to a really good start with a birdie at the 10th, before picking up another shot at the 12th and then I hit a nice shot into 13 – I was thinking ‘this is too good to be true’!” said Gaughan, who also started on the back nine.
“It got a little bit scrappy after that with a few bogeys, but I hit the ball nicely to give myself a lot of chances, I just didn’t hole the putts. I managed to sink a really nice putt on the eighth to get back to level par before finishing with a par on the ninth. Overall, I’m happy, if you’d offered me that before teeing off I’d have taken it with this being my first Challenge Tour start.”
The back-to-back events in Abu Dhabi have been made possible due to the long-term partnership between the European Tour group and the Emirates Golf Federation, in addition to the support of the host venues Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, along with sponsors ARENA, Phoenix Capital and Al Laith.