Guerrier emphasises grand ambitions in Oman

24/10/2013 16:59:00
Julien Guerrier (pic by Phil Inglis) ()
Julien Guerrier (pic by Phil Inglis) ()
Julien Guerrier and Nicolo Ravano, two players in need of a big result at this week’s National Bank of Oman Golf Classic, overcame the pressure of the occasion to move into the lead after the opening day of the pivotal penultimate event of the European Challenge Tour season.

If the importance of proceedings at the Challenge Tour’s maiden tournament in the Gulf Cooperation Council needed any more emphasising, Guerrier’s rise to the summit brought that affirmation as he currently occupies one of the most precarious positions in the Rankings.

The Frenchman sits in 45th place, right on the cut-line to qualify for next week’s season-ending Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club, so he is chasing a strong finish to consolidate that place and keep his hopes of graduation to The European Tour alive for another week.

He certainly enhanced those chances after day one at Almouj Golf, The Wave, although his round didn’t begin so positively as he bogeyed the tenth hole, his first, before bouncing back with three consecutive birdies from the 14th.

Three more birdies, along with another gained shot at the 17th, earned the 28 year old a four under par 68 and a share of the lead at the stunning Greg Norman-designed venue.

“It was a surprising round for me because I haven’t been good off the tee recently and that made me a bit nervous on the tees,” said Guerrier. “My irons were very good though and I put it close very often.

“I started really badly with a two-iron tee shot that went way right but it ended up on a path, which was lucky, and I got away with a bogey. I felt like things went my way a little bit after that opening shot so that is good. I tried to just put everything close from the fairways and I managed to do that.

“I have tried to focus on my game because I could finish top 20 here and still miss out on the top 45 so I can’t think about these things. Of course, it’s more comfortable to start like this but it will be breezy this week so with this wind you never know what can happen.”

Ravano, meanwhile, needs a very big result if he is to sneak into the final tournament of the season as he sits 35 spots outside the cut mark in 80th position.

The Italian’s 68 was even more admirable given that he had to battle with the extremely windy conditions early afternoon but four crucial saves on the back nine helped him battle through when so many others struggled.

“I'm very happy with that round,” said the 28 year old. “The first nine there was no wind and I played well and just holed a few putts.

“In the back nine the wind picked up a lot but I kept it consistent. I missed a couple of greens but I had some lucky lies and made some good chips into the green.

“The minimum target now is just getting a good Challenge Tour card for next year because this could be my last tournament, but hopefully not. Hopefully I can get a good finish here and make it to Grand Final. I probably need a top three but I know if I play well I can score low.”

Daniel Im of the USA finished the day in third spot thanks to a three under par 69 as he aims to move from 21st position into the top 15 over the next two weeks and claim a European Tour card in his rookie season on the Challenge Tour.