The European Tour will welcome another new event to its international schedule next month when the NBO Oman Open makes its debut at the stunning Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf in Muscat from February 15-18.
A star-studded line-up including Ryder Cup stars Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood along with former Open Champion Paul Lawrie - also a two-time Ryder Cup player - and Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston will tee it up in the event which provides further evidence of the Middle East’s increasing importance to the European Tour.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the 2018 NBO Oman Open in February,” said three-time European Tour winner Sullivan as the event was officially announced at a press conference held at the National Bank of Oman headquarters, under the auspices of H.E Dr Mohammed bin Hamad Al Rumhy, Minister of Oil & Gas.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing golf in the region and it’s exciting to play in a new country that I’ve not played before. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in Oman in just a few weeks’ time.”
The NBO Oman Open will represent the biggest professional sports event ever to be hosted in Oman and while the occasion will mark a watershed moment in the Sultanate’s history, it will be the sixth time a National Bank of Oman-sponsored professional golf tournament has been hosted at Al Mouj Golf, with the venue welcoming the stars of the European Challenge Tour for the past five years.
The National Bank of Oman Golf Classic was the penultimate event on the Challenge Tour schedule in 2013 and 2014 before the highly-regarded tournament received its first promotion when it was elevated to become the season-ending showpiece, NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, from 2015 to 2017.
The Sultanate became the key focus of the Challenge Tour schedule with the season-long points competition renamed the ‘Road to Oman Rankings’ and the top 45 players earning a spot in the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final where they competed for a chance to win promotion to the European Tour. The event, as well as the world-class course and venue, received frequent rave reviews from players, spectators and the media and it was only a matter of time before the tournament itself was awarded European Tour promotion.
H.E Dr Al Rumhy said: “The evolution of this tournament has been of great benefit to Oman in putting the Sultanate on the world sporting map and showcasing the country’s enviable assets while at the same time significantly aiding the growth of golf here at grassroots level.
“As was the case with the European Challenge Tour events hosted at Al Mouj Golf, an important aspect of the NBO Oman Open will be the involvement of local amateurs who will compete in the OHI Oman Amateur Open at Ghala Golf Club over January 26-27 with the winner being awarded a place in the NBO Oman Open field. Furthermore, there will be one additional amateur spot allocated and this initiative will give these players invaluable exposure to top level golf as they continue their development.
“The event will also provide a wonderful platform for the community, both golfers and non-golfers, to come together and enjoy what will be a fabulous social occasion.”
Ahmed Al Musalmi, CEO of NBO added: “Over the last five years, we have enjoyed great success with the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final. We are very proud of how this landmark event has now grown to join the very prestigious European Tour, with the inaugural NBO Oman Open 2018. The impact of continuously growing the tournament has helped position Oman as one of the world’s most memorable sports destinations with all the abundant attributes that our great country has to offer.
“Our vision for the tournament is to position Oman on the international stage, with the objective of creating opportunities to support economic diversification, attracting foreign direct investments and increasing tourism. It is also our aim through the tournament to involve the whole community to take part in the event, encourage our people to live healthier lives and most importantly, inspire our children and local sportsmen to aim for greatness.”
Also teeing it up in Muscat will be Jordan Smith. The Englishman topped the Road to Oman Rankings in 2016 before making a lightning quick start to his European Tour career last year with victory in the Porsche European Open along with a further four top ten finishes as he secured a place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai at the first time of asking.
“I’m excited to be returning to Oman and playing in the inaugural NBO Oman Open at Al Mouj Golf next month,” said Smith. “I have fond memories of Oman and winning the Road to Oman in 2016 and look forward to playing again in Muscat at Al Mouj Golf. It is a challenging golf course and I’m delighted to include Oman and the NBO Oman Open in my 2018 schedule.”
Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia, winner of the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final and Road to Oman in 2015, will join Smith in the NBO Oman Open field as will 2016 NBO Golf Classic Grand Final winner Bernd Ritthammer along with another former Ryder Cup player and two-time OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic champion Stephen Gallagher.
The list of former Al Mouj Golf winners will also include Clément Sordet who will return to the scene of his triumph just over three months after his 2017 NBO Golf Classic Grand Final victory while last year’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters champion Jeunghun Wang and rising star Seungsu Han, both from Korea add further quality to the high-class international field.
Nick Tarratt, Director of the European Tour Middle East, said: “The fact the inaugural NBO Oman Open has attracted such a high-quality field is a mark of the esteemed reputation enjoyed by the Challenge Tour events which proceeded it in the Sultanate. That reputation is down to the efforts of NBO, the Government of Oman, Al Mouj Golf and the Oman Golf Committee whose support earned the tournament a well-deserved place on the European Tour. We’re delighted to add the NBO Oman Open to our 2018 schedule and look forward to crowning our first champion in less than six weeks’ time.”