Englishman Luke Joy will take a two stroke buffer into the penultimate round of the MENA Tour’s opening event of 2017, the Palmeraie Country Club Casablanca Open, in Morocco today.
Joy rattled off four birdies in his last six holes to fire a blemish free five-under 66 Tuesday and seize the early initiative from countrymen Lee Corfield and Jordan Loft and Sweden’s Henric Sturehed who carded 68s on a day when 20 players broke par.
Reigning MENA Tour order of merit champion Craig Hinton left himself with plenty of work to do after opening with an eight-over 79 to lie in a tie for 78th place. The Englishman dropped all the shots in his first 10 holes, including a triple-bogey on the par-3 7th.
Of the other notables in the 137-strong field, 10-time tour winner Zane Scotland returned a 74 while fellow Englishman Danny Poulter, the elder brother of European Ryder Cup hero Ian, shot a 72. India’s Feroz Singh Garewal, who graduated via last week’s MENA Tour Q-school, fired a 71.
Joy was happy with his first day of work on the 2017 MENA Tour after the disappointment of missing an Asia Tour card earlier this year.
“I played very nicely today, solid off the tee and solid into the greens which made it a stress free day overall,” Joy said in his blog overnight.
“The course is fairly open off the tee but has some of the best greens we will see all year which makes it a fun course to play from the fairways. I tee off at 7.30am tomorrow [Morocco time] so will be taking every item of clothes I own out with me as I’m sure it’s going to be a chilly start to the day.”
Joy was paired with former England wicketkeeper-batsman Craig Kieswetter who carded a 75 in his professional debut after safely negotiating last week’s Q-School, also in Morocco.
“He is always in good spirits,” Joy said of the former cricketer. “Now that he has earned his MENA Tour card for this season, I hope he will be a regular on the tour.”
Corfield, a four-time winner on the tour, mixed eight birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey in a topsy-turvy 68 while Sturehed almost kept it clean, offsetting a bogey on the 7th with four birdies in his last 11 holes.
“It was kind of an up-and-down round,” Corfield said. Made lots of birdies and bogeys. I may have left some shots out there, but can’t complain after opening with a 68,”
“There are plenty of scoring opportunities if you can drive the ball well off the tee and avoid bunkers. The greens are just excellent,” he said.
Dutchman Pierre Junior Verlaar carded a 72 to lead the amateur division, one shot ahead of Ayoub Saidi and two clear of Amine El Kharraz, also of Morocco.
Moroccans also made their presence felt in the MENA Division for the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation Award with Mustapha El Maouas hitting the front after signing for a one-under 70 as Younes El Hassani and Faycal Serghini shared second on level par.