Dubai: A record number of players have entered this week’s Royal D’Anfa Open in Morocco — the curtain raiser to this year’s 10-stage Mena Golf Tour — underlying the series’ growing popularity.
A total of 108 golfers, including 24 amateurs — representing a 70 per cent increase in the field from last year’s tally — are set to compete.
Last year, Wales’ Stephen Dodd, a three-time winner on the European Tour, defeated Englishman Zane Scotland and Ian Keenan in a three-way playoff to take the title with a score of six-under par.
Dodd, who posted a creditable tied for 17th finish at the just-concluded Hassan II Trophy, will have his work cut this time around with the likes of experienced Ross McGowan, Yasin Ali and Alessandro Tadini all making their first appearance in a MENA Golf Tour event in Morocco.
With 22 nationalities represented in the line-up, the tournament’s strength is further highlighted by the presence of England’s Lee Corfield and William Harrold and Sandro Piaget of Monaco, all former event winners on the MENA Golf Tour, along with Dodd and Scotland, who between them have won nine times.
With 36 entries, including 19 amateurs, Moroccan players are headlining the field, which also consists of 21 golfers from England and, for the first time, eight from Italy in what promises to be an absorbing contest.
“If the weather stays calm, as is the forecast for the week, there will be plenty of scoring opportunities,” said course professional Mohammad Makroune. “The course is short and requires an accurate tee shot due to strategically located fairway bunkers. If you can keep the ball in play, you can make lots of birdies.”
Makroune predicted a score of between 14 and 16 if the wind blew and 20 to 22 if it was calm. But England’s Daniel Owen feels anyone shooting 10 under would have done well given the speed of the greens.
“For the last one month or so, our staff have been working hard to present the course in top condition and, I am sure, players will relish a true test of golf,” added Makroune.