x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Thabet is enjoying his learning curve at Fiji for Nomura Cup

The equestrian rider-turned-golfer believes the trials and tribulations he has suffered at the Nomura Cup have made him become more professional.

Despite coming up short among his four teammates in all three rounds, Saif Thabet is enjoying the competitve challenge.
Despite coming up short among his four teammates in all three rounds, Saif Thabet is enjoying the competitve challenge.

Saif Thabet believes the trials and tribulations he has suffered at the Nomura Cup have made him become more professional.

He and his UAE teammates put on a solid show during yesterday's third round of the Nomura Cup in Fiji to sit in 14th place in the standings at the world's second biggest tournament for non-professionals, after the US-based Eisenhower Trophy, where 27 nations are competing against one another.

Thabet, 23, only came back to golf seriously this year after spending eight years with the UAE national equestrian team and yesterday's round of 88 was his best so far, following on from a 92 and 98.

And while, once again, the Abu Dhabi resident's score did not count, as only the three best rounds do, he believes this has been a hugely important step for him, no matter what he does now with his golfing career.

"All I can say is that this has been an incredible experience so far," Thabet said. "The tournament has been so competitive and a real challenge for us all, but I've really enjoyed it.

"One of the biggest challenges has been to adapt to a tropical course, which we are obviously not used to. That takes time because you need a lot of different shots in your bag to get around in a decent number.

"The planning of every shot is critical and that has been interesting and a real learning curve.

"More than anything, this has given me a different perspective and a more professional view on what has to be done with this team. This is what we've needed. We have been up against the pros of the future, and we will come out of this much improved."

On a day when even the best players on the difficult Natadola Bay course in Denarau struggled to break par, the Emirati four managed to play steady golf.

The star of the team so far, Ahmed Al Musharrekh, had his first real day of woe on the course when he got around in 80, which is eight-over par, after his previous rounds of 68 and 73.

Brother Abdulla and Khalid Yousuf both shot rounds of 87, which took the team total to 721. Abdulla's first two rounds were 76 and 89, while Yousuf posted scores of 74 and 87 over the first two days.

"The guys did a lot better and I was proud of the way they kept their focus after what was a sore day for them on Wednesday," Chris Vallender, the coach, said.

Ahmed slipped to 10th in the overall individual rankings. He is now on five-over, 10 shots behind the leader, the Australia captain Cameron Smith, who is expected to turn professional next year.

"I have played really well during the event, but had a rough day today," said the younger of the Al Musharrekh brothers.

"I am determined to make up for that on the final round and help get the team to our highest position possible."

The talented Australians retained their lead in what were windy conditions. Their team of Smith, Jake Higginbottom, Marika Batibasaga and Daniel Bringolf returned a combined score of four-over par to lead New Zealand by 13 strokes.

India moved to third on 654, followed by South Korea on 663, the winners in 2009.

Matt Cutler, the Australia team manager, said: "Daniel's performance in treacherous conditions was pivotal in us maintaining our position. Cameron Smith, on his 18th birthday, continued his good form with another consistent one over par 73."

Smith extended his lead in the individual event, returning a one-over par 73 yesterday, for a five-under total of 211.

Ryan Fox from New Zealand has moved to second place after a superb 71 to be two-under after 54 holes. Higginbottom is in third position at one-under. Australia go into the final round at Denarau Golf Club hoping to win their ninth Nomura Cup since they entered the competition in 1979.

 

ncameron@thenational.ae


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