Darren Clarke Creates MENA Tour History.

Darren Clarke created history when he became the first reigning Ryder Cup Captain to tee-up in a MENA Tour event.

Clarke had flown straight from Turkey where had been competing in the Turkish Airlines Open to the UAE ahead of posting a respectable one under par 71 on the first day of the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in the UAE to be trailing five shot behind the leading duo of Faycal Serghini and Per Barth.

Clarke was supposed to be joined by fellow ISM client Matt Fitzpatrick but after winning the British Masters the 21-year old Englishman qualified for Thursday’s starting WGC – HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.

Morocco-born Serghini went bogey free while Sweden’s Barth lit up the back nine with five birdies after making the turn at one under to take a one-shot lead over the English duo of James Allan (amateur) and Michael Downes.

A five-man group, headed by Welsh ace Stephen Dodd and Scotland’s Ted Innes Ker, led the chasing pack, moving into a tie for fifth on four under.

Serghini felt he was in control of the proceedings most of the time after early hiccups.

“With a w

Darren Clarke with his playing partners Simon Payne and Ahmed Marjan at the Tower Links Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. Darren Clarke with his playing partners Simon Payne and Ahmed Marjan at Tower Links Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah

Darren Clarke with his playing partners Simon Payne and Ahmed Marjan at the Tower Links Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

ayward drive on the first and a terrible approach on the second, I did not get off to a very good start, but just managed to save pars. Played steady golf thereafter,” said Serghini, who played the back nine at four under.

“I felt like I was in the zone most of the day. Can’t complain after opening with a 66,” said the experienced Moroccan, who is a three-time runner-up on the tour.

Sweden’s Barth was equally pleased with his day’s efforts. “I was quite patient out there. Hit almost every green which meant I was putting for birdie most of the time. I was very good off the tee, okay with approaches and a little better with the putter, which held the round together,” said the 29-year-old Swede, who recently won the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open for his maiden success on the MENA Golf

“I could have birdied a couple of more holes on the front nine, but never mind. I got into the groove coming home and holed many putts from 13 to 14 feet which

“I was never in serious trouble out there. Whenever I missed a shot, I missed in the right place and that kind of kept the momentum going,” said Barth.

One of the early starters, James Allan attributed his round to his sharp short game. “I created a lot of scoring opportunities with my wedges and short irons. I think this is one of my best rounds on the tour this season as every part of my game fell into place,” said the 21-year-old from Chelmsford.

Clarke, who is the patron of the MENA Golf Tour, enjoyed his first round on the tour.

“I may have struggled a bit with the speed of the greens, but overall I had good fun on this course,” said the 42-year-old Ulsterman whose opening round consisted of two birdies and a bogey.

Defending champion Ahmed Marjan settled for a 75, but won a word of praise from Clarke, his partner. “He may have left some shots out there, but he played

Meanwhile, Dodd, a three-time winner on the European Tour, flew out of the gate with birdies on his first two holes and kept the momentum rolling all the way through to stay in contention for his third title on the MENA Golf Tour.

Miles Tunnicliff, a two-time winner on the European Tour, recorded an early bogey on the third, but bounced back in style, playing the last 15 holes at four under for a tidy 69.

“I hit a lot of fairways and greens in regulation, which was good. Overall, it was quite a steady round,” said Tunnicliff, who managed to save par after a wayward drive at the last with a 25-foot putt.



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