England’s Marco Penge leads the way after day one of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A after posting a three under par opening round of 69, before high winds suspended play at 12:59 local time.
The 25-year-old teed off in the opening group in a two-tee start off the first hole at 8:00am, as tee times were brought forward due to the high winds forecasted.
Penge made the most of the calmer early morning conditions by posting a two under par front nine of 34 thanks to birdies on seven and nine. Penge dropped back to level par after a double-bogey seven on the par five 11th before bouncing back with four birdies in a row from the 12th to 15th.
As the winds then started to strengthen to 45 miles an hour, it resulted in a bogey finish on the final hole for Penge as he set the clubhouse score at three under. Penge currently sits at 24th in the Road to Mallorca Rankings, however a win would elevate him into second spot on the Rankings and he would secure a DP World Tour card for 2024.
“The wind here today is pretty insane,” he said. “To come off and break 70 and even break par is a pretty good achievement and I’m pleased heading into the rest of the week.
“I think everyone knew today was going to be pretty crazy. Starting out it wasn’t actually that bad. As the round went on the wind picked up even more so I’m pretty pleased I managed to tee off first.
“You’re not really trying to hit it close, you’re just wanting to make your par and move on. I birdied nine and I felt like I could shoot six or seven under as I felt good with my game.
“Patience is key. I think I only hit eight greens in regulation today, so it was about being accepting of it and knowing that everyone is going to hit bad shots in this. You just have to grind and dig it out as best you can.”
Just a single shot back, with two holes remaining, are Zimbabwe’s Benjamin Follett-Smith and young Frenchman Tom Vaillant both at two under par.
Follett-Smith himself is around the bubble mark on the Road to Mallorca Rankings. Currently placed 18th, his DP World Tour card is not secured completely just yet. Valliant on the other hand needs a strong performance this week as he sits in 33rd.
Irishman Conor Purcell sits in solo 4th at one under par through 16 holes, while Max Rottluff, the UAE Challenge Champion, is in a tie for fifth with three holes remaining. Ricardo Gouveia, the Abu Dhabi Challenge Champion, who had the worst of the weather is in 40th at six over par through 14 holes.
Round one will resume at 08:00 local time on Friday morning, with round two to begin no earlier than 10:00.