RIYADH // Duncan Stewart matched the course record with a six-under 66 to take a two-shot lead after round one at the Mena Golf Tour’s Dirab Golf Championship on Monday.
The Scot fired six birdies, two bogeys and an eagle to tie the course record set by Pakistan’s Shafiq Masih and Craig Smith of Wales in the final round of last year’s championship.
Moroccan amateur Mustapha El Maouas led the region’s challenge with a 71.
Defending champion Masih, looking to atone for missing the cut at last week’s Dubai Creek Open, made good use of his “local knowledge” to shoot 68 and join favourite Zane Scotland – the winner in Dubai last week – and Greg Nicolson in second place, one shot ahead of Tommy Mou.
“I really was playing as good a golf as I have played for a while,” said Masih, a former teaching professional at the Dirab Golf and Country Club.
“My putting was a lot better today. I know what it takes to shoot low on this course. You never know what tomorrow holds, but I feel like I’m in great position.”
The day, however, belonged to Stewart, who found his groove quickly and made the turn at four-under before dropping his first shot on the 10th. He picked up two more shots – on the 11th and 15th – and eagled the 13th to end the round with a broad smile lighting up his face.
“It was a good day at work,” he said. “I struck the ball well and created many birdie opportunities, which was good.”
With two wins and a second place from the first three events of the tour this season, England’s Scotland continued his hot streak, reeling off seven birdies in his 68, but double-bogeyed the par-4 eighth after hitting his tee shot out of bounds before dropping another shot on the 16th.
The dropped shots may have undermined his day’s work, but the Englishman was pleased with his overall effort.
“No complaints. I played pretty solid golf,” said Scotland.
In all 15 players broke par in the first round with Switzerland’s Dubai-based Michael Harradine producing the best score in the amateur division with a 70, one ahead of Morocco’s El Maouas.