By Kent Gray
Antoine Schwartz flirted with the MENA Tour’s first ever 59 and had ample consolation even though he missed out on golf’s holy grail number on the opening day of the Troon Series – Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines.
The 29-year-old Frenchman eventually settled for a 62 at Dubai Hills Golf Club and a five-shot lead over England’s Benjamin David, Scot Craig Ross and Dutchman Pierre Junior Verlaar heading into Wednesday’s second round.
Schwartz also has a share of two records to cling on to as others need to make big moves on moving day; his 10-under-par effort matched the developmental tour’s lowest round in relation to par, a mark he now owns with South Africa’s MG Keyser and Dubai amateur Rayhan Thomas who both shot 61s at the 2017 Dubai Creek Open. His five-shot buffer also matched the circuit’s largest 18-hole lead, equalling the advantage Zane Scotland enjoyed at the 2013 Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Open, a tournament the Englishman went on to win for the third of his record 10 MENA Tour wins.
— MENA Tour (@theMENATour) March 5, 2019
Schwartz, who topped the Pro Golf Tour Order of Merit in 2016 and qualified for the European Challenge Tour last year, was two-under par after four holes with birdies on the 1st and 3rd, before unleashing a flurry of stunning shots over the next eight holes.
He birdied seven of them and eagled the 11th before cooling down. A bogey on par-4 16th, where he hit a wedge shot from the middle of the fairway into the greenside bunker and failed to make his up-and-down was his only mistake of the day. The 10-under par 62 round was his best as a professional, bettering an eight-under-par 62 four years ago in Austria.
“It was just an unbelievable day. I hit so many good shots today. Everything was just perfect,” said Schwartz, playing his first season on the MENA Tour.
“Of course, you are thinking about a 59. The last five-six holes here are tough, and even more in the windy conditions that we faced almost throughout the day. I just tried to stay aggressive and I even gave myself a couple of chances, but it was not to be. I’d love to shoot 62 every day, but this one was very special because the golf course wasn’t playing easy because of the wind.”
Schwartz hit 16 greens in regulation and needed just 24 putts to finish his round.
“I was doing everything well, but I think the key was that I did not miss a single putt from inside four meters (12 feet),” said Schwartz.
“I spoke to my coach, Guillaume Biaugeaud, last night and I told him that I felt I was getting too technical over my putts. He told me to just concentrate on the speed and hit my putt and not to think about the line. It worked.”
(With Antoine Schwartz)
After getting to 11-under par through 12 holes on a tough scoring day at @DubaiHillsGolf, Schwartz had 59 on his mind before finishing on 10-under 62 in Troon Series – Dubai Open presented by @T_A_Golf#HBFS #JourneyToJordan@troonint pic.twitter.com/44KWUOzYx5
— MENA Tour (@theMENATour) March 5, 2019
Seven players were tied for fifth at four-under-par after 68s. That group included Scotland, Journey to Jordan money-list leader Matthew Baldwin and fellow Englishman Luke Joy who was forced out of last week’s tournament at Ghala Golf Club after a suspected case of food poisoning.
England’s Jack Floydd was the best of the 11 amateurs in the 120-strong field with a two-under-par 70, followed by his compatriots Curtis Knipes and Ben Davies (both 71).
The winner this week earns an invite to the European Challenge Tour’s Slovakia Challenge (July 4-7).
Dubai Open – Leading 1st Round Scores (par-72)
62 – Antoine Schwartz (FRA)
67 – Benjamin David (ENG), Craig Ross (SCO), Pierre Junior Verlaar (NED)
68 – Peter Stojanovski (MAC), Zane Scotland (ENG), Luke Joy (ENG), MG Keyser (RSA), Scott Henry (SCO), Jake Ayres (ENG), Matthew Baldwin (ENG)|
69 – Tom Shadbolt (ENG), Todd Clements (ENG), Karl Abledinger (AUT), Stefan Still (GER), Alasdair Plumb (SCO), Sam Hobday (ENG), Victor Riu (FRA)
70 – Ryan Evans (ENG), Steve Webster (ENG), Conor O’Neil (SCO), Clemens Prader (AUT), Jake Shepherd (ENG), Jack Floydd (Am-ENG), Adam Sagar (ENG), Jack Doherty (SCO), Mathias Weiderman (SWE), Seve Benson (ENG), Rocco Sanjust (ITA)
71 – Max Smith (ENG), Robert Harrhy (ENG), Richard Bland (ENG), Leo Lilja (ESP), Lucas Norman (SWE), Daniel Owen (ENG), Robin Roussel (FRA), Ben Davies (AM-ENG), Leonhard Asti (AUT), Constantin Schwiertz (GER), Kyson Lloyd (ENG), Lionel Weber (FRA), Curtis Knipes (AM-ENG)
72 – Joshua Greenville-Wood (ENG), Jose Rolz (GUA), Mark James (ENG), Tim Gornik (SLO), Robert Dinwiddie (ENG), James Allan (ENG), Aaron Leitmannstetter (GER), Jack McDonald (SCO), Maarten Bosch (NED), Erik Jonasson (SWE), Gabriel Axell (SWE), Oliver Ross (AM-ENG), Joshua White (ENG), Lindsay Renolds (CAN), Christopher Mivis (BEL), William Nygard (SWE), Daniel Gaunt (AUS).