Skaik off to a solid start at Abu Dhabi Challenge

The UAE’s No.1 golfer Ahmad Skaik got off to a solid start at the Abu Dhabi Challenge, carding a one under par 71 in the opening round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Skaik, who recently returned from injury to successfully defend the Presidents Cup title at this week’s venue, carded ten consecutive pars before picking up his first shot of the day at the par 5 second, having started on the back nine.

The Emirati went on to nearly make eagle on the fifth before tapping in for birdie to get to two under for the day. But he dropped back to one under par after making his first, and only, bogey  of the day on the seventh, before coming home with a pair of pars to sign for an impressive 71 at the National Course.

“I hit the ball okay, my irons were curving a lot to the right, so I didn’t feel comfortable with that,” said Skaik.

“But my putting was really good, I felt very confident in that and made some really good up and downs. I hit some poor tee shots and had to scramble a lot. One birdie and two bogeys to finish up, although my birdie on the fifth was so nearly an eagle!”

Skaik was paired with Casey Jarvis and Road to Mallorca leader Ugo Coussaud, with the latter shooting a bogey-free five under up 67 to sit pretty on the leaderboard after the morning wave.

“Ugo’s a very good ball striker,” said Skaik.

“You do realise that you’re not far off, there’s nothing too special, just very steady. He doesn’t make many mistakes and stays calm, so I took that on board and learned from that. I also liked his tempo, I’m going to have to learn from that.”

Meanwhile, Louis Gaughan, a local golf coach at Dubai Hills Golf Club, mixed three bogeys with three birdies to shoot a level par 72 in the capital.

The Scotsman is making his Challenge Tour debut this week after winning the Emirates PGA Championship last week to secure an invitation from the Emirates Golf Federation into the first of back-to-back Challenge Tournaments in Abu Dhabi.

“I got off to a really good start with a birdie at the 10th, before picking up another shot at the 12th and then I hit a nice shot into 13 – I was thinking ‘this is too good to be true’!” said Gaughan, who also started on the back nine.

“It got a little bit scrappy after that with a few bogeys, but I hit the ball really nicely to give myself a lot of chances, I just didn’t hole the putts. I managed to sink a really nice putt on the eighth to get back to level par before finishing with a par on the ninth. Overall, I’m happy, if you’d offered me that before teeing off I’d have taken it with this being my first Challenge Tour start.”

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