Howie posts course record to lead in Abu Dhabi

Craig Howie will take a two shot lead into the weekend of the UAE Challenge at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club after posting a course record six under par second round of 66.

The Scot registered two birdies on the front nine before adding four more coming home, including back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th, and did so without carding a bogey to take the outright lead on nine under par.

Overnight leader Ivan Cantero Gutierrez shares second place with Spanish compatriot Manuel Elvira, who eagled his final hole to join him on seven under par.

28-year-old Howie, who won on the Challenge Tour in 2021 at the Range Servant Challenge by Hinton Golf, is feeling confident ahead of the weekend.

“First and foremost, I’m really pleased,” he said. “To go bogey free was great and to shoot six under is better than I could’ve asked for.

“I’ve got good control of the golf ball. I’m driving it really well and I’m shaping my iron shots really well using the wind. I just feel comfortable.

“You have to flat out hit it well around here. You can find yourself in some terrible spots around the greens if you don’t hit good approach shots. It’s a golf course that will reward good iron play, and thankfully right now, I’m hitting my irons really well.”

Howie currently sits in 25th position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and finished in tied sixth at the Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge in March. He’s hoping that the wind continues to blow over the weekend where he can use his experiences of playing in such conditions to his advantage.

“I’ve played a lot of golf in the wind, so I feel really comfortable,” he said. “It’s maybe 30 degrees too warm for me, but things feel good.

“Hopefully it blows quite windy over the weekend because I’m feeling pretty good about it. There’s a long 36 holes ahead so anything can happen, but I feel great.”

Norwegian Jeppe Kristian Anderson and Spaniard Joel Moscatel Nachshon share fourth place on six under par, while South African Jaco Prinsloo, Australia’s Maverick Antcliff and Scotland’s Liam Johnston – who matched the course record with a six under par round of 66 – occupy sixth.

Seven players share ninth on four under par, including Italian Matteo Manassero, who remains the youngest winner in DP World Tour history, and Road to Mallorca Number One Ugo Coussaud.

Meanwhile, Dubai resident Joshua Grenville-Wood enjoyed a turnaround in fortunes as he followed a first round 73 with a second round 68 to sit in a share of 16th on three under par.

“I just couldn’t seem to catch a break off the tee yesterday, I had a lot of uphill lies on the par fours when it was into the wind, struggled to control flight and made a couple of silly bogeys,” said Grenville-Wood, who received an invitation from the Emirates Golf Federation into the event.

“Today was a lot better, I was very smart out there, hit it better off the tee and scrambled pretty well when I missed the green. I’ve got another good opportunity to climb the Road to Mallorca Rankings, so I’ll give it a good go tomorrow.”

The back-to-back events in Abu Dhabi have been made possible due to the long-term partnership between the European Tour group and the Emirates Golf Federation, in addition to the support of the host venues Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, along with sponsors ARENA, Phoenix Capital and Al Laith.

The third round of the UAE Challenge gets underway at 7:00am local time, with Howie teeing it up in the final group at 9:00am alongside Elvira and Cantero Gutierrez.

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