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Al Hamra in perfect shape for RAK Challenge, says Smith

Englishman returns to scene of last year’s Challenge Tour success

Gulf News

Ras Al Khaimah: Ten months after winning the inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge and with it the European Challenge Tour Order of Merit, England’s Jordan Smith says the Al Hamra course is in ‘perfect shape’ for its second staging of the event from October 25-28.

Smith, 24, secured his card to play on the European Tour with that wire-to-wire victory and in his rookie year he has since gone on to win the Porsche European Open, while finishing tied for ninth in the PGA Championship and now sits 17th in the Race to Dubai rankings, guaranteeing him a place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 16-19.

“I’d had a very strong Challenge Tour season last year but winning in Ras Al Khaimah was the icing on the cake,” said Smith, who is in the emirate preparing for the end of the European Tour season.

“Performing so consistently with so much on the line was a huge confidence boost and I’ve been fortunate enough to carry that form into my rookie season on the European Tour. Everything is going well, but there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think how important my Ras Al Khaimah win was in getting me to where I am today. I’m only really at the start of my golf career — a bit like Ras Al Khaimah — and it’s going to be a long journey but that particular junction was a crucial point in my progression.

“The Al Hamra course is in very good condition; you would never guess we’re at the tail-end of a scorching summer season in Ras Al Khaimah. It will be in perfect shape by the time the guys touch down. If you can keep the ball straight off the tee and stay away from the lagoons, the course can be relatively straight-forward, but with so much at stake in the season’s penultimate tournament it will definitely test the field — I have no doubts about that.”

Smith’s meteoric rise has seen him win the EuroPro Tour Order of Merit in 2015 followed by the Challenge Tour Order of Merit in 2016 and now he stands on the verge of winning European Tour Rookie of the Year.

A field of 105 European Challenge Tour talents mixed with local qualifiers and invites will compete at Al Hamra next month.

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