By Kent Gray
Rayhan Thomas has familiarity, form and some fresh short game feel in the bank as he eyes a return to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
The 18-year-old Dubai-based Indian amateur announced himself to the wider golfing world when he made his first European Tour cut with the help of an eye-catching opening round 68 at the $3 million event last year.
Thomas’ return to his home Emirates Golf Club has been sealed with a special sponsors’ invite and he’ll be joined on the Majlis from Jan. 25-28 by MENA Tour qualifiers Jamie Elson, Henric Sturehed, Luke Joy and Todd Clements, the latter also an amateur.
“I can’t wait to get started,” said the world amateur No. 20 who finished T-60 last year and went on to equal the world record of nine consecutive birdies in an official World Golf Ranking event at the 2017 Dubai Creek Open.
“I am feeling confident about my game, just working on my wedges and putter as short game will be crucial to going to low.”
Thomas won the Omega Watches Emirates Amateur Open last week by going low, closing with a 69 to fight back from six shots adrift before emerging from a three-way playoff with a birdie on the second hole of overtime.
It was a timely boost for the Junior Presidents Cupper who has verbally committed to play collegiate golf in the U.S. for Oklahoma State University from 2019.
“The [Majlis] is like my home course. Having played there numerous times, I know it like the back of my hand. I see no reason why I shouldn’t do well there. It was nice making the cut last year, but just didn’t play that well on the front nines.”
Joining Thomas in showcasing the MENA Tour will be the top three Order of Merit professionals – Elson, Sturehed and Joy – and the leading amateur Todd Clements.
It will be a first Desert Classic start for Clements and Sturehed, who earned a 2018 European Tour card via Q-School. Like Joy and Thomas, Elson has played the “Middle East’s Major” before but is taking a laid back approach to his late career resurgence.
“I want to take a really positive, relaxed attitude into the tournament. Hoping to play some good golf and see where that leaves me,” said Elson, who won the Challenge Tour’s Finnish Open in 2003 shortly after turning professional. “I’m not putting any extra pressure on myself.”
Daily tickets, priced at AED 175, are available online at omegadubaidesertclassic.com
Season passes, which provide access to Emirates G.C. all week, are available for AED 500. Under 16s gain free entry with a adult carrying a valid ticket for the day.Season passes, which provide access to Emirates G.C. all week, is available for AED 500. Under 16s gain free entry with a adult carrying a valid ticket for the day.