With the field now confirmed and the tournament just a few weeks away, this year’s inaugural NBO Oman Open on the European Tour will boast a field chock full of Ryder Cup stars and Major champions when the Sultanate’s biggest ever professional sports event gets underway at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat from February 15-18.
Ryder Cup Captains past and present – Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjørn – will be looking to write another chapter in their illustrious careers with victory in the first ever NBO Oman Open while Paul Lawrie, who like Clarke is a former Open Champion, hopes that the links of Al Mouj will offer plenty of favourable bounces.
“I’m looking forward to the NBO Oman event,” said Lawrie, the 1999 Open Champion and eight-time European Tour winner. “It’ll be one of the first few of 2018 for me personally and I’ve heard some good things about the golf course at Al Mouj already. It’ll be nice to get out to Muscat to see it for myself.”
European Tour stalwarts Robert Karlsson, Thongchai Jaidee, David Howell and Peter Hanson, who between them have 30 wins on Tour, will be going toe-to-toe with the next generation of Tour stars, which includes Korean starlets Jeunghun Wang and Soomin Lee, French duo Alexander Levy and Roman Wattel, Italy’s Renato Paratore, Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard and 2016 Road to Oman graduate Jordan Smith, all of whom have at least one win under their belt on Tour.
Former BMW PGA Champion Matteo Manassero will bring some firepower to Al Mouj Golf while this year’s BMW SA Open winner Chris Paisley tees it up hoping to build on his impressive season so far, which has also included top five finishes at both the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
France’s Victor Dubuisson and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, two of the heroes of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, will get their first taste of competitive golf in Oman and so too will Indian duo S.S.P. Chawrasia and Shubhankar Sharma, the reigning Indian Open and Joburg Open champions, respectively.
Among the elite field will be Nasser Yacoob of Bahrain who earned his place in the field after winning this year’s OHI Oman Amateur Open in a play-off against fellow Bahraini Sultan Abdulla and Max Burrow of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, who took second place on a countback at Ghala Golf Club at the weekend.
Yacoob said: “It felt so great to get the win at the Amateur Open against a strong field and now I have the opportunity to tee off with some of the best players in the world at the NBO Oman Open.
“I’m very happy the European Tour is coming to Oman as it’s such a beautiful country. I can’t wait to play at Al Mouj Golf. I think it’s one of the most beautiful courses in the world. I have played there before but never with the European Tour players so that’s going to be really special. I’ve played the Dubai Desert Classic in the past but I think this one will be more special as I really love the course.
“I’m in my 50s now so this could be my last big event before I move over to the Senior Tour so I just want to go out there and enjoy my golf, I’ll be practicing a lot in the lead up to the event and hopefully I can put on a good show.
Al Mouj Golf teaching pro Steven Troup, who coaches the Oman National Team and Oman Junior Team, is also set for the experience of a lifetime after receiving an invite to join the field.
“I’m not new to working a European Tour event as I was a big part of the Qatar Masters when I worked at Doha Golf Club for eight years but I’ll be very new to participating in one so I can’t wait to get started. I’m not going to get carried away with the whole experience; I just want to try and play some decent golf and do my best.
“Obviously from working at Al Mouj Golf Club I play the course a lot but it’s definitely going to be a bigger test playing in front of bigger crowds with a bit more pressure on my shoulders. I’m used to just going out and playing with members or teaching my students on the course so this is certainly going to be a different experience. Although I know the course very well I don’t believe I have any advantage as the Tour players can hit the ball 40-50 yards further than me!
“I coach the Oman National Team and the Oman Junior Team so it will be great for them to see the hard work and preparation that goes in to the lead up of an event of this magnitude. It will be nice for them to watch me for a change!”
The MENA Tour’s Peter Stojanovski of Australia, winner of last year’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic at Tower Links Golf Club also received an invite while the remaining places in the field will be allocated according to the results of the upcoming Maybank Championship and ISPS Handa World Super Six Perth.
With a world-class field assembled on one of the most striking courses on the European Tour, the inaugural NBO Oman Open promises to be a highlight of the early season schedule in the Race to Dubai.