DUBAI // If you are an habitual hacker who frequents Al Badia Golf Club, you may want to look away now.
The usually daunting Dubai course surrendered yesterday to the talents of those contesting the Mena Tour, as the opening round of the Sheikh Maktoum Dubai Open, the tournament's penultimate leg, produced a barrage of birdies and even a new course record.
Once the dust had settled, it was Fredrik Quicker, of course, who set the pace.
The smooth Swede rattled off nine birdies and a solitary bogey to post a 64 and finish top of a prolific heap on eight-under par, two shots ahead of Tom Buchanan, the Al Ain-based professional.
For Quicker, it marked the culmination of a consistent month's work, the 26 year old having not finished outside the top 10 in any of the previous four Mena events.
"I've been confident right the way through the tour and, despite struggling at the beginning of the final round last week at Ras Al Khaimah, I found form to shoot five-under for the last five holes," said Quicker, who currently sits ninth in the Order of Merit.
"So I've kept things going here, had a bit of momentum and feel like everything in my game has got to where I want to be.
"And I've built on that. I've been playing really solid and put myself in a good position every time.
"I'm an aggressive player who attacks pins, so when your confidence is up you feel you can go low. I've just got to maintain it now."
Quicker is chased by a group headed by Buchanan, the golf operations supervisor at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club.
The Scot has finally found his range with the putter - thanks to a revised grip - and certainly displayed that with a bogey free 66.
"It was one of those days where I played nicely and a score has been out there, as the leaderboard suggests," Buchanan said.
"When I started the tour the main aim was to get to next week's Tour Championship on my 'home' course [in Ain] and I've given myself a huge chance by finishing third in RAK last week. Long may it continue."
Sebastian Heisele, a product of the UAE's Junior Development Programme, is one shot further back after posting a fine 67.
Zane Scotland, the current leader of the Order of Merit, is the best placed of his closest ranking rivals following a four-under-par total of 68.
"I've just got to forget about protecting my Order of Merit lead and focus on this event for the next few days," said the Englishman.
"I putted well and am in a good position to have a say here."
Mohammed Munir, second to Scotland in the overall standings, continued his title-winning form from last week with a 69, saying: "I have momentum, which is very important in golf. I'm happy with my game and believe I can challenge again."
The top 40 professionals and leading 15 amateurs from the 121-man field qualify for the Tour Championship, next week's season-ending event. Habitual hackers need not apply.
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