Strongest field expected for 2020 Oman Open
Al Mouj Golf to host the prestigious European Tour event from February 27-March 1
One of the many reasons for the recent decision by the Ministry of Sports Affairs to transform the Oman Golf Committee to a fullfledged Oman Golf Association (OGA) has been the successful hosting of the prestigious Oman Open - a European Tour event - over the past couple of years at Al Mouj Golf.
The showpiece tournament, one of the biggest and prestigious international events in the sultanate, returns for the third year in succession with the 2020 Oman Open set to be held at the spectacular Al Mouj Golf from February 27-March 1.
As Oman Open, it will be the second edition but it will be the first major event since the formation of OGA. Officials at OGA and European Tour are committed to make the event a grand success.
With exactly 50 days to go, the organisers are upbeat and expecting the strongest field ever this time with a top European Tour official hinting that there may be quite a few top-100 players descending on Muscat featuring a total of 144 golfers.
Though the entries close by February 6, early indications and interest shown by leading players have raised the organisers' hopes.
At a press conference held at Kempinski Hotel Muscat on Wednesday, championship director Jamie Wood said, “Oman Open has put the sultanate on the global golf map. We are getting better and better since Oman hosted the European Challenge Tour for the first time in 2013.”
Also in attendance at the press briefing were H E Dr Mohammed bin Hamad al Rumhi, OGA patron and the Minister of Oil and Gas, Mundhir al Barwani, OGA chairman, Tom Phillips, head of Middle East of European Tour, and representative of sponsors.
Wood said, “We progressed steadily and since 2018 we have been proud host of the PGA European Tour, a US$1.75mn event.
“The tournament has got a positive response from the participants and has managed to reach a TV audience of nearly 200mn. It has had a sizeable economic impact (US$26mn) with the figures rising by more than 20 per cent as compared to 2018. The international media coverage had an estimated value of US$89.4mn last year.”
2019 runner-up Kieffer returns
Last year’s runner-up Maximilian Kieffer of Germany is relishing a go at the title this year.
He will be joined by British Amateur winner James Sugrue, former Hong Kong Open champion Scott Hend and last year's Challenge Tour Grand Final winner Adri Arnaus.
In a statement to the organisers, Kieffer said, “I am excited to return to Muscat in February. Al Mouj is a great course and I kind of have unfinished business after my tied second-place last year. Hopefully, I can finish one place up this time.”
Al Mouj is a great course and I kind of have unfinished business after my tied second-place last year
Reigning champion American Kurt Kitayama has also shown interest to defend the title but has not confirmed participation yet.
‘Opportunity for local players’
Barwani thanked the Minister of Sports Affairs, H E Sheikh Saad al Saadi, for recognising the game’s potential and announcing the formation of OGA. Barwani said, “The Oman Open is also a great opportunity for local players to compete with the best as the winner of the domestic OHI Oman Amateur Open will get a berth in the tournament. Hopefully, we can have an Omani player winning it.
“Also there is a wild card entry for the top-ranked Omani amateur on the World Amateur Golf Rankings along with the winner of the MENA Tour’s Ghala Open, which will be held a week prior to the Oman Open.”
European Tour official impressed
Phillips, who has taken over the European Tour Middle East operations six months back, was impressed by the strides taken by Oman since hosting the European Challenge Tour event for the first time in 2013.
He said, “It is an example in itself to see Oman now hosts a PGA European Tour after starting with Challenge Tour and then Challenge Tour Grand Final. I am also impressed by OGA’s work in developing the game at grassroots level. We are happy to know that Oman Open’s success has played a role in the formation of OGA.”
Phillips said that the back-toback European Tour events in Oman and Qatar [Commercial Bank Qatar Masters from March 5-8] will attract top players as the two events together will have a total purse of US$3.5mn.
The European Tour last year had signed a three-year deal with Oman to host the event till 2021.
Sports fans in Oman can expect a treat as Muscat gets ready to host a series of international sports events, starting with Oman International Drift Championship (January 16-17), followed by Al Mouj Muscat Marathon (Jan 17-18).
Officials and dignitaries at the press conference to announce the details of the tournament on Wednesday