By Kent Gray
Todd Clements continues to bang loudly on victory’s door but a MENA Tour debutant threatens to slam shut the Englishman’s dreams of becoming just the third amateur winner on the developmental circuit.
Rookie South African professional Kyle Barker will take a four-stroke lead over Clements into the final round of the Golf Citizen Abu Dhabi Open Wednesday after backing up his opening 66 at Yas Links with a bogey-free 68 today to move to -10.
Clements (pictured) added a 70 to his first round 68 to remain in contention at -6, a shot clear of South African Tyler Hogarty, Welshman Toby Hunt and Englishman Jamie Elson who is doing his order of merit ambitions no harm at all with rounds of 70-69 thus far. But it is the 19-year-old Barker, playing on a special invite this week, who is impressing everyone with his ball striking.
“I really enjoyed my day out there. Didn’t really hole that many putts, but managed to keep bogeys off my card, which was great,” said Barker.
“My caddy and I are working as a team and the results are showing on the scores. Again, I struck the ball nicely and created a plenty of scoring opportunities there. I feel like I’m in great position and hoping to pull off my first professional win.”
Clements, T-17 at the Els last week after finishing joint runner-up at the Dubai Creek Open earlier in the month, started Tuesday just two back but couldn’t get his putter going.
“I played better than Monday, but just couldn’t hole putts, missed at least four or five from close range. That’s golf. Maybe tomorrow is a better day,” said the 21-year-old who hopes to emulate Indian No.1 Rayhan Thomas and Dutchman Pierre Junior Verlaar as amateur winners after they won the 2016 Dubai Creek Open and March’s Royal Golf Mohammedia Open respectively.
Darren Clarke, the 2011 Open champion and MENA Tour patron, moved into a tie for 20th on -1 after a second round 71, but defending champion Craig Hinton shot back-to-back 74s to miss the cut (which fell at +3, 147) by one, as did Luke Joy (74-74).
Scotland’s Paul Doherty fired a five-under 67 to make the biggest move, up from T-63 to T-13, as the English duo of Lee Corfield (-4) and Zane Scotland (-3) left themselves with work to do.
Elsewhere, Khalid Yousuf carded rounds of 72-74 to be +2 for the championship and in a share of 39th overnight. But his UAE national team-mates had a much tougher time of it on Tuesday with Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship-bound Ahmed Skaik missing the cut on +8 after rounds of 75-77 as Abdalla Al Musharrekh finished +23 (84-83). Ahmed Al Musharrekh, who played the opening round in the company of Clarke, was forced to withdraw with a wrist injury while no second round score was posted for Sohail Al Marzooqi on the MENA Tour website after he opened with a 19-over-par 91 on Monday.