Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Rayhan Thomas takes ‘step in the right direction’ at Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Rayhan Thomas will do well to remain focused when he returns to the schoolbooks this week after making his first European Tour cut at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Rayhan Thomas, left, played his final round at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic alongside reigning US Masters champion Danny Willett. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Rayhan Thomas, left, played his final round at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic alongside reigning US Masters champion Danny Willett. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

DUBAI // Rayhan Thomas will do well to remain focused when he returns to the schoolbooks this week. It is easy to imagine the teenager’s mind might wander to that time he was 10 shots clear of Tiger Woods in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Or that time he played in a Sunday afternoon three-ball with the reigning US Masters champion, Danny Willett. Or that time he made the cut in only his third appearance on the European Tour. Or that late afternoon he spent signing autographs for a pack of new supporters.

Being homeschooled, it is not like he will be able to brag about the scrapbook full of experiences he accrued over the past week at Emirates Golf Club. Not that the Dubai-born and raised amateur seems the sort to go in for boasting, anyway.

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Thomas, a 17-year-old Indian, finished his first Classic three-over after a final round 74. He said after that the tournament had provided the sort of lessons he needs if he is to return to this event as a full European Tour professional one day.

“It was a step in the right direction,” he said. “Obviously, this is where I want to be one day.”

He had an endorsement from a lofty perch, too. Willett, last year’s champion who ended his defence of the Dallah Trophy on level-par for the competition, liked what he saw from Thomas.

“The fundamentals are there,” Willett, who carded a final round of 70, said of his young playing partner.

“A few errors on and around the greens probably cost him a bit, but he hits the ball nicely. His putting wasn’t as good as it needs to be if he wants to do this more and more, but there is an easy solution to that: just go practice putting.

“He seems quite mature for his age. It will be interesting to see if he gets a few more invites into Mena Tour events, or other things, how he gets on, because I would have thought the experience he has gained here this week will bode well for him.”

Thomas looked comfortable in the company of a major champion. When the teen played a gorgeous approach to six feet on the 14th, his senior playing partner went out of his way to compliment him.

On the following green, the two were deep in conversation, and Thomas said he gleaned as many tips as he could across the course of the 18 holes.

“He was a great guy,” Thomas said of the Englishman. “He didn’t play great, but he was still able to shoot two-under, and that was really good to watch.

“I learnt a few things. The way he played the course was really smart. We had general chit chat. He asked me if I was going to school tomorrow, so I had to tell him I study from home.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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Updated: February 5, 2017 04:00 AM

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