The European Tour will make history this week when the Race to Dubai stops off in Oman for the first time. Here is everything you need to know about the inaugural staging of the Muscat event.
1) A new chapter
The European Tour is breaking new ground this week in Oman. The sultanate joins an illustrious list of 44 different countries to have held European Tour tournaments, and also becomes the fourth nation from the Gulf Cooperation Council to stage a European Tour competition – joining Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
The NBO Oman Open is also one of three new events on the 2018 European Tour International Schedule, alongside the Belgian Knockout and the 2018 Shot Clock Masters.
2) Challenge Tour roots
Al Mouj Golf is no stranger to drama, having held the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final from 2015-17 - the season-ending tournament that decides which 15 Challenge Tour players will earn European Tour cards.
The Muscat venue has actually hosted Challenge Tour tournaments on five occasions, including the National Bank of Oman Classic from 2013-14.
This week’s event also has a distinctly Challenge Tour flavour to it, with all three previous winners of the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final teeing it up this week: Ricardo Gouveia (2015), Bernd Ritthammer (2016) and Clément Sordet (2017)
Gouveia is also one of 11 former Challenge Tour Number Ones competing in Muscat: Thomas Bjørn (1995), Mark Foster (2001), Lee Slattery (2004), Marc Warren (2005), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (2007), David Horsey (2008), Edoardo Molinari (2009), Andrea Pavan (2013), Andrew Johnston (2014), Jordan Smith (2016) and Tapio Pulkkanen (2017).
3) Bjørn again?
Since Bjørn finished top of the Challenge Tour Rankings in 1995 he has truly gone on to become one of the European Tour’s greatest ever players.
The 2018 Ryder Cup Captain, who has triumphed 15 times on the European Tour, has enjoyed a lot of success in the Middle East, having won in both Dubai (2001 Dubai Desert Classic) and Qatar (2011 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters).
Competing in Oman for the first time, the Dane will be seeking a double celebration by adding to his trophy haul on Sunday, which also happens to be his 47th birthday.
4) Azaan the history maker
One player fans of the European Tour are unlikely to be familiar with is Azaan Al Rumhy – but he is a record-breaker.
The Omani amateur will write his name into the history books when he competes on home soil this week, as he becomes the first player from his country to play in a European Tour tournament.
Al Rumhy will have plenty of local knowledge too, having been crowned the NBO Omani Amateur Champion on two occasions at Al Mouj Golf (2015 and 2017).
5) A stunning setting
Opened in September 2012, Al Mouj Golf stretches across six kilometres of stunning coastline flanking the pastel-blue colours of the Indian Ocean, separated only by beautiful sandy beaches – all of which makes this venue an idyllic haven.
Designed by Major Champion Greg Norman, the 7,342-yard par-72 course is laid out in a links style befitting its coastal location, with just one tree standing along the eighth fairway.
The massive greens and lush fairways are peppered with bunkers comprised partly of crushed white Omani marble, while natural local dunes line almost every hole.