Feb 15, 2018: A second hole-in-one of the season helped Matthew Southgate share the lead with Paul Waring after round one of the inaugural NBO Oman Open. India’s Shubhankar Sharma and S.S.P Chawrasia shot one-over 73.
Al Mouj Golf was staging its first European Tour event but is no stranger to drama after hosting the season-ending NBO Golf Classic Grand Final for the last three seasons on the Challenge Tour and it was home to another spectacle on Thursday.
Germany’s Marcel Siem had earlier made the fifth hole-in-one of the campaign on the 13th and Southgate made it double delight for the galleries as he aced the fifth from 165 yards with a seven-iron – following up his ace at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
There was an extra twist to the situation as Siem and Southgate’s caddies are twin brothers Guy and Gary Tilston.
Southgate’s 67 matched the round of fellow Englishman Waring, who was also blemish-free, and the pair will head into day two at seven under, a shot clear of Dutchman Daan Huizing.
English pair Andy Sullivan and Callum Shinkwin were then at five under.
Southgate produced one of the stories of the season in 2015 when he came through Qualifying School just months after having surgery for testicular cancer and he has not looked back since, enjoying the two best seasons of his career in 2016 and 2017.
The 29 year old took advantage of the par fives on the back nine and then made birdies on the first and third before recording his ace. He missed a six-footer to join the lead on the next but made up for it with a birdie on the eighth.
Waring played last season on a medical exemption after wrist and shoulder problems but also enjoyed a career-best campaign, finishing 60th on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.
He made the cut at the UBS Hong Kong Open but has not yet competed over the weekend in 2018, although he is highly unlikely to be leaving Muscat on Friday.
The 33 year old birdied the 12th and then rattled off a hat-trick of gains from the 14th to turn in 32. A monster putt on the first then edged him into contention and he took advantage of the third and seventh – making it four out of four on the par fives – to hit the front.
Huizing lost his card in 2014 after graduating from the Challenge Tour and has played just 11 European Tour events since but looked very much at home in the Middle East.
He made a hat-trick of gains from the seventh and had a two-shot lead when he added further birdies on the 12th, 15th and 16th. He dropped a shot on the next but picked it straight back up on the last.
A finish of 62nd on last season’s Race to Dubai was disappointing by Sullivan’s very high standards but he has found some form in 2018 and brought that with him to Muscat.
The Ryder Cup star birdied the 12th but dropped shots on the 16th and 17th and needed a gain on the last to turn in level par. He then came to life on the front nine, making a hat-trick of gains from the second, adding another on the sixth with a monster putt, and closing with a 12-footer on the ninth,
Shinkwin joined him from the later starters making birdies on the third, seventh, eighth, 12th and 14th in a bogey-free effort.
Australian Sam Brazel, Welshman Oliver Farr, Italian Matteo Manassero, France’s Matthieu Pavon, England’s Jordan Smith and Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti were at four under.
Siem made his hole-in-one with a seven iron from 162 yards.