NBO Oman Open: Joost Luiten wins the title

Joost Luiten is all smiles with the NBO Oman Open trophy
Joost Luiten is all smiles with the NBO Oman Open trophy

Joost Luiten hit a closing 68 to hold off the challenge of Chris Wood and win the inaugural NBO Oman Open.

Final leaders

-16 Joost Luiten

-14 Chris Wood

-13 Julien Guerrier

Round four report

Joost Luiten hit a closing 68 to hold off the challenge of Chris Wood and win the inaugural NBO Oman Open.

Dutchman Luiten entered Sunday one shot ahead of Wood in a share of the lead but the two could not be separated at the turn.

The duo enjoyed an enthralling nip-and-tuck battle down the back nine but when Luiten holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th to get to 16 under and Wood bogeyed the next, the title was Luiten's.

Wood finished alone in second at 14 under and it was an encouraging return to form the 2016 Ryder Cup player, who had missed his first three cuts of the season.

"I'm pretty down but in the grand scheme of things it's night and day to how I've been," he told europeantour.com.

"After a couple of days I'm sure I'll reflect and see it's a big step in the right direction this week."

Wood hit the pin on the first and made a birdie to join the lead but a hat-trick of gains from the second moved Luiten three shots ahead.

A birdie on the sixth kept Wood within touching distance and when Luiten made back-to-back bogeys on the seventh and eighth, the pair were tied at the top.

Both men birdied the 12th but Luiten added another on the 13th and the leading pair both made further gains on the 16th before Wood's late bogey handed Luiten some breathing space.

"It's always tough to win out here, all these guys are so good and they keep putting pressure on you," said Luiten.

"Down the stretch I hit some nice shots, I made some nice putts and it was a nice battle with my friend Woody.

"I need to win another couple to get into the Ryder Cup team but it's a great start to the year for me."

Frenchman Julien Guerrier finished third at 13 under, with England's Robert Rock three shots further back, one ahead of countryman Matthew Southgate and Scot Stephen Gallacher.

Round three report

Matthew Southgate will enter the final round of the NBO Oman Open in a three-way tie for the lead as he goes in search of his first European Tour title.

Southgate carded seven birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey in a mixed third round to join Dutchman Joost Luiten and Frenchman Julien Guerrier on 12 under par after they produced matching 66s.

Sky Bet offer Luiten as a Price Boost at odds enhanced from 5/1 to 6/1 to win by two or more shots.

Luiten is the 5/2 favourite to win the tournament ahead of Guerrier and Southgate, both on offer at 4/1.

Englishman Chris Wood was another stroke back in fourth place, one shot ahead of Spain's Adrian Otaegui on 10 under.

Southgate began the day two shots behind halfway leader Matthieu Pavon, Ben Coley's 50/1 pre-tournament selection, but soon set about closing the gap, opening his third round with three straight birdies to climb to 12 under.

After dropping shots at the fourth and sixth, Southgate carded a double bogey on the seventh before finishing his front nine with a birdie to reach the turn in 36.

Southgate then notched birdies at the 11th, 12th and 18th to sign for a 69 and grab a share of the lead.

"The birdie at nine was big," Southgate told europeantour.com. "It takes a big heart to hit shots like that because a part of you wants to go and hide in a corner and cry.

"People say to you, 'keep going', but I'm not going to walk in! You can do two things, you can hide behind your caddie and sulk and knock it around in level or over par, or you can take it on the chin, rise up to the challenge and try to hit good golf shots.

"That's something I'm really of proud of having done today because it's very hard to get out there and keep going but that was definitely a turning point at nine."

Round two report

Ben Coley's 50/1 pre-tournament selection Matthiew Pavon has the halfway lead in the NBO Oman Open and is now 9/4 favourite with Sky Bet.

Three weeks after disqualifying himself from the Dubai Desert Classic, France's Matthieu Pavon enjoyed a happy return to the Middle East by claiming the halfway lead in the NBO Oman Open.

Pavon notified the European Tour that he had inadvertently signed for an incorrect score during the third round in Dubai, a four being recorded on the 10th instead of a five.

But there were no such worries in Muscat following a second round of 65 which gave the 25-year-old a halfway total of 11 under par and a two-shot lead over England's Matthew Southgate.

"It was really good fun, I really enjoyed every part of my game today," said Pavon, who finished third at the same venue in a Challenge Tour event in 2016. "Everything was really consistent and solid. I played a lot of good shots and a few really good putts, so everything was just really good.

"I've got a lot of good memories of this course which helps. When you play bad on a course and then have to go back there you have some bad memories but here it's just the opposite - I just have so many good memories so I'm just trying to surf them!"

Southgate had to settle for a second round of 70 after finding the Gulf of Oman with his tee shot on the 18th to run up a double bogey, but he refused to be too downbeat.

"I feel really in control of my game and emotionally I've been really good on the course," Southgate said. "I just switched off a little bit on the 18th tee. I made a poor swing and a poor error and I'm not surprised. It's a hot day and it's taken a lot out of me.

"There are going to be hundreds of shots that I hit in my career that I'm not happy with and that was just one of them. I think I'm playing the best golf of my life which is the goal because I look to just improve all the time."

Fellow Englishmen Chris Wood and Paul Waring are a shot behind Southgate on eight under par, with former Open champion Darren Clarke three shots further back following a 67, his lowest score on the European Tour since 2015.

Round one report

At a golf course new to the majority of the field, Paul Waring and Matthew Southgate carded matching 65s to overtake morning leader Daan Huizing, who birdied the last in a round of 66.

Andy Sullivan now heads the market after a round of 67 saw the three-time European Tour winner sit in a share of fourth with Callum Shinkwin, while Ben Coley's tip Matthieu Pavon is in a big tie for sixth on four-under.

Both Waring and Southgate were bogey-free for the day having started on the 10th tee, the former carding four birdies in his opening seven holes whereas Southgate was forced to be patient as he turned in 34.

That patience was rewarded when the 29-year-old, who was sixth in last year's Open Championship, made a hole-in-one at the par-three fifth hole. Remarkably, it was his second of the season after one at the Dubai Desert Classic on his penultimate start.

It was the day's second hole-in-one after Germany's Marcel Siem also holed out at the 13th.

Southgate meanwhile went on to birdie the eighth, another par-three, to share the lead with Waring, who has missed all three cuts this year but sprang to life under favourable conditions.

Both players grew up by the coast - Southgate in Southend, Waring in Southport - and it was their control under breezy conditions which helped them move to the top of the leaderboard.

"I played some of the best golf I've played for a little while," Waring told europeantour.com.

"I actually missed a few chances, which sounds ridiculous. I did hole a nice one on (hole) one from 30 or 40 feet which is nice to keep the momentum going. I'm really happy with that."

Southgate added: "It was really good but kind of a weird way to shoot 65.

"I missed a few close-distance chances but then I holed two really long putts and had a hole-in-one so I think a 65 was how I played. It was a funny way to get that score but I'm over the moon with that start."

Sky Bet make Southgate a 12/1 chance behind 9/1 favourite Sullivan, with Waring slightly bigger at 14/1.

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