NBO Oman Open

Dutch delight as Joost Luiten wins in Muscat

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By Kent Gray
On the homepage of Joost Luiten’s own website, the Dutchman boldly claims he’s “at my best when I’m under pressure”.  Quite.

The 32-year-old again held his nerve down the stretch on a Sunday to win the inaugural NBO Oman Open by two strokes from Englishman Chris Wood. Luiten started the final round at Al Mouj tied for the lead at -12 and while Frenchman Julien Guerrier faded to solo third with a 71 and Englishman Matthew Southgate dipped to a share of ninth after a 75, a closing 68 saw Luiten claim a sixth European Tour title.

It also saw the world No.90 extend his winning record when leading through 54 holes to an utterly impressive five from seven even if he needed all his closing qualities to get the job done in Muscat.

He’s done it! 🏆 @joostluitenofficial wins the #NBOOManOpen.

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Three successive birdies from the second saw Luiten race to a three shot lead but bogeys at 7 and 8 enabled Wood draw level at -13. Robert Rock, a blast from the past who counts the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship among his two European Tour titles, briefly made it a three-way tie at the top but three closing bogeys ended his challenge.

The stage was left to Luiten and Wood but everytime the latter (playing in the penultimate group) birdied, Luiten responded immediately, decisively so on the par 5 16th. A bogey on the next hole was Wood’s only blemish in a closing 69 and gave Luiten a two shot buffer down the 72nd hole.

Luiten’s last win came at his home KLM Open in 2016. He was 36th in last season’s Race to Dubai in a consistent season featuring two top-10s, a runner-up finish to host Sergio Garcia at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters the bitter-sweet highlight. Another tilt at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship now beckons with Luiten rocketing up to 10th in the 2018 Race to Dubai standings after starting the week on the bubble in 60th place.

It earns the Dutchman a start in the March 1-4 WGC-Mexico Championship and an outside shot at a Ryder Cup debut in Paris this September. The performance didn’t go unnoticed by European captain Thomas Bjorn who celebrated his 47th birthday with a share of 31st place.

“This is why you play golf, to hold trophies,” Luiten told EuropeanTour.com afterwards.

“It’s always tough to win out here, all these guys are so good and they keep putting pressure on you.Down the stretch I hit some nice shots, I made some nice putts and it was a nice battle with my friend Woody. I did drop a couple of silly ones going out. My aim after that was just to create chances and hopefully take a few.

“The putt on 16 really closed the door on the other guys. I wasn’t tempted to go for the green in two. I played that hole smart. As for the Ryder Cup, I need to win a couple more times to have a chance. But if I play more good golf, you never know what might happen.”

Luiten is a confirmed starter for next week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club where South Korea’s Jeunghun Wang will defend.


Kent Gray

Editor of Golf Digest Middle East. Has written about golf since 1989 and owned a suspect short game even longer.

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