Scott Henry and Grant Forrest off to good starts in UAE

Led by Scott Henry and backed up by Grant Forrest, it was a promising start for the Scottish contingent in the inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Challenge in the United Arab Emirates.

On a day when England’s Max Orrin and Swede Pontus Widegren set the pace with seven-under-par 65s - a new course record at Al Hamra - both Henry and Forrest produced flawless performances to manouevre themselves into good positions.

Henry, who finished third in the Hainan Open in China a fortnight ago, signed for six birdies in his 66, one less than Forrest, who is making his first appearance on the Challenge Tour since turning professional last month.

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“It was good and no bogeys is always nice,” said Henry of his effort. “The problem for me lately is that while I’ve been playing well I’ve also been throwing in three of four bogeys that kill the card.

“I always seem to be making enough birdies, so if I can avoid those bogeys I should always be shooting a decent score.”

The 29-year-old Clydebank man is sitting 29th in this season’s Road to Oman, which reaches its conclusion with next week’s Grand Final in Muscat.

The top 15 on the money-list secure European Tour cards for next season, with Henry needing a strong performance either this week or next week to have any chance of joining compatriot Duncan Stewart among this year’s graduates.

“The situation for me is that I probably need to win one of these last two tournaments to win a card,” admitted Henry, who narrowly failed to hang on to his European Tour card in 2013 and fell three spots short of getting it back 12 months ago.

“It’s probably a good frame of mind to be in as it means I can just play aggressive and I always seem to play my best golf when that is the case.”

Riding on the crest of a wave after his encouraging professional debut in the Dunhill Links, Forrest was also pleased with his opening salvo in the desert.

Out in the second group of the day, the 23-year-old Craigielaw star picked up birdies at the second, fifth, sixth and eighth to reach the turn in four-under 32 before making his fifth gain of the round at the 12th.

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“It’s been a good start to my pro career and I’m rolling on a bit of confidnce from the Dunhill Links,” admitted Forrest afterwards.

“I drove the ball really well and that made life a lot easier. I also rolled in a few putts.

“When I got the text saying I was off at 6.40am I thought it was a joke. I was up at 4.30 but it was actually a great draw.

“There’s not as much wind and you probably get the front nine in cooler conditions.”

Playing on a sponsor’s invitation, Forrest finished joint-41st in the Dunhill Links and is using this event to help him prepare for the second stage of the European Tour Qualifying School in Spain in a fortnight’s time.

He spent some time at The Montgomerie course in Dubai last week and admitted before teeing off in Ras Al Khaimah that his mindset going into this Challenge Tour event has changed from when he played in five events as an amateur on the circuit earlier in the year.

“I’d say it definitely has,” insisted the former Walker Cup player. “My goal is always to give 100 per cent and play my best at every event, but the Dunhill gave me confidence that I’m capable of competing and winning out here.”

Three other Scots - Stewart, Ross Kellett and David Law - added to the good day’s work by the Caledonian contingent as they all shot 68s to sit just outside the top 10.

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