By Kent Gray
Mathiam Keyser’s impressive victory in the Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines has set up a thrilling finale to the MENA Tour’s ‘spring swing’ in Bahrain.
A closing 68 saw the 32-year-old South African double the two-stroke advantage he took into the final round at Dubai Hills Golf Club to win by four from Englishman Matthew Baldwin and seal his third victory on the regional Pro-Am circuit.
The $13,500 payday saw Keyser jump to second in the Journey to Jordan race with $23,650 after four of five spring swing events – $3350 behind money list leader Baldwin.
The top five players heading into the Troon-Series – Royal Golf Bahrain Open beginning Monday – Baldwin, Keyser, Daniel Gaunt (Australia), Nick Marsh (England) and Erik Jonasson (Sweden) – could emerge top of the Spring Swing which carries an invite to the European Tour’s Maybank Championship in Malaysia (Mar. 21-24).
It’s not just the Malaysia Open invite that will have the leaders on tenterhooks; the top five players at the conclusion of the 54-hole Bahrain Open on Wednesday will be rewarded with the second placed player headed to the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco (April 25-29), third to the new Jordan Mixed Open at Ayla G.C. (April 4-6) while Asian Tour invites to the Indonesian Masters (July 4-7) and Indonesian Open (Aug. 15-18) await the fourth and fifth-placed players respectively.
Keyser already has a Challenge Tour start at the Slovakia Challenge (July 4-7) to look forward to after outlasting Baldwin (70) and Frenchman Antoine Schwartz (72).
— MENA Tour (@theMENATour) March 7, 2019
“It’s a great feeling. I have won at least once every year since 2016 and it is great to get a ‘W’ so early in the year. This is going to do be great for my season,” said the Jumeirah Golf Estates-attached Keyser.
“I knew it would be difficult to follow the 61 with a low round again. So, I told myself to just avoid making any bogeys and then I’d be hard to catch, especially if the wind picks up. And that’s exactly what happened.
Keyser’s couldn’t quite go bogey-free after dropping a shot on the Dubai Hills’ 13th but had five birdies to finish on 19-under par 197
“Both Matthew and Antoine were playing very well and it got tight towards the end. But that birdie on the 17th was the deal-sealer. It was a nice, low-spinning four-iron there. I have just changed my shafts in my irons and the new ones really helped me out there in the wind.”
Baldwin, winner of the B Stage of Qualifying School and Journey To Jordan-1, the inaugural event of the 2019 season, kept it interesting until the end before an unfortunate bogey on the difficult par-3 17th hole proved crucial.
The 32-year-old from Southport had a poor third hole where he made a double bogey, but did not give up. He kept chipping at Keyser’s lead and on the 17th tee, the duo was separated by just one shot.
But Baldwin’s three-iron tee shot got caught in the stiff headwind and came up short, wedged in the rocks fronting the water. He had to take a drop and made a bogey. On the other hand, Keyser smashed a 4-iron safely to 25 feet and made the putt to go ahead by three.
A bogey by Baldwin on the last hole, where Keyser laid up into the fairway bunker and then hit a beautiful third shot to three feet, ensured the final score.
Baldwin may have lost the chance to win a second title this season, but he was pleased for Keyser and also the way he fought back from the double bogey on the third hole.
“It was not to be today and MG played great golf, but at least I pushed him until the 17th hole,” said the Englishman who continues to lead the Journey To Jordan (Order of Merit).
— MENA Tour (@theMENATour) March 7, 2019
“I was first up on the 17th and I knew it was a three-iron for me but not sure if it was a full three-iron or a knock-down. The double at third was all right. I had a lot of golf to play after that and I did manage to come back from that.”
In the Amateur category, there was a tie at the top between England’s Ben Davies (73) and compatriot Jack Floydd (72) at four-under par 212.
Troon Series Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines – FINAL SCORE (par-72)
197 – MG Keyser (RSA) 68-61-68
201 – Matthew Baldwin (ENG) 68-63-70
203 – Antoine Schwartz (FRA) 62-69-72
205 – Henric Sturehed (SWE) 73-63-69
206 – Harry Ellis (ENG) 76-64-66
207 – Robert Harrhy (ENG) 71-66-70, Victor Riu (FRA) 69-68-70, Ryan Evans (ENG) 70-65-72
208 – Lionel Weber (FRA) 71-69-68, Benjamin David (ENG) 67-72-69
209 – Stefan Still (GER) 69-72-68, Jack McDonald (SCO) 72-68-69, Christopher Mivis (BEL) 72-67-70, Scott Henry (SCO) 68-70-71, Robin Roussel (FRA) 71-67-71
210 – Daniel Hendry (SCO) 72-69-69, Clemens Prader (AUT) 70-68-72, Erik Jonasson (SWE) 72-66-72, Todd Clements (ENG) 69-68-73, Luke Joy (ENG) 68-69-73
211 – Joshua White (ENG) 72-71-68, Richard Bland (ENG) 71-71-69, James Allan (ENG) 72-68-71, Peter Stojanovski (MAC) 68-71-72, Craig Ross (SCO) 67-71-73, Zane Scotland (ENG) 68-70-73, Tom Shadbolt (ENG) 69-69-73, Jake Ayres (ENG) 68-69-74, Leo Lilja (ESP) 71-66-74