Robin Roussel launched another spirited attempt to get into the winners’ circle in his first season on the MENA Tour by setting the pace with a seven-under par 65 in the opening round of the Troon Series – Royal Golf Bahrain Open yesterday.
The Frenchman had shot a brilliant final-round 63 At Ghala Golf in Muscat in windy conditions, but that wasn’t enough to beat a rampant Nick Marsh. However, at the demanding Colin Montgomerie-designed Royal Golf Club in Manama, Roussel snatched a one-shot lead ahead of Joshua Grenville-Wood (66) of England.
In-form Englishman Harry Ellis, who closed with rounds of 64 and 66 in Dubai Hills last week, and Germany’s Stefan Still were tied for third place at five-under par 67.
Scotland’s Daniel Kay (69) made the first hole-in-one of the 2019 season of the MENA Tour by Arena. He holed his tee shot on the 213-yard, par-3 second hole.
In the Amateur’s category, Dubai-based 14-year-old Josh Hill and England’s Jack Floydd were tied at the top after rounds of two-under par 70 each.
The Royal Golf Club is known for its severely sloping greens, and not many would have expected a 65 leading the tournament. But Roussel, who had only 5s and 3s on his back nine and birdied the five par-4s, said he was never in any trouble.
“These greens are some of the toughest that I have seen in my three-year career as a professional golfer. Having said that, I played very well. I won’t say my golf was exceptional, but I did everything well,” said Roussel, who started with a bogey on the second hole and made eight birdies after that.
“I played good golf, but more importantly, I played smart golf. I was always in a good position on the green except for the second hole where I tried hitting a draw early in the morning but the ball did not come back. Thereafter, I kept hitting to the right side of the green.”
Grenville-Wood has had some good rounds this season but the consistency has been missing and he felt it was because he was trying to put too much pressure on himself to follow one good round with another.
After starting with an eagle on the driveable par-4 10th hole, where he landed his drive just 10 feet from the pin, Grenville-Wood made five more birdies and a solitary bogey.
The MENA Tour by Arena is returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring and will feature 10 tournaments this year. It will continue to provide Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thus making it a perfect pathway for ambitious young professional to the bigger tours, and for the players from the region to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.