Strong­est field ex­pected for 2020 Oman Open

Al Mouj Golf to host the pres­ti­gious Euro­pean Tour event from Fe­bru­ary 27-March 1

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Ashok Puro­hit

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.”

Con­tin­ued on

Al Mouj is a great course and I kind of have un­fin­ished busi­ness af­ter my tied sec­ond-place last year

Max­i­m­il­ian Ki­ef­fer

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).

(Mus­cat Daily)

Of­fi­cials and dig­ni­taries at the press con­fer­ence to an­nounce the de­tails of the tour­na­ment on Wednesday

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