Jason Barnes (pictured by Getty Images) carded a stunning seven under par 65 to move one shot clear after the opening round of the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic, and the Englishman admitted he has been inspired by his compatriot and friend Jason Palmer’s victory in China last week.
The 30 year old fired ten birdies over the testing Greg Norman-designed lay-out and posted the overnight lead despite a three-putt bogey from 25 feet at the last hole.
On a day when the weather was kind to Barnes and his fellow afternoon starters, following a breezy morning which also yielded some rare rainfall in the Omani capital, he took advantage in clinical fashion.
The Kent player hit 15 greens in regulation and, although he left himself short on a few occasions, he duly chipped in twice to maintain the kind of momentum which produced six birdies on the front nine.
Barnes currently sits in 25th position in the Challenge Tour Rankings so a win this week would secure his European Tour status, but he is trying not to get carried away too early, although he conceded that watching Palmer claim a maiden title at The Foshan Open last week has spurred him on.
“I am over the moon with that score,” he said. “If you’d have offered me seven under at the start of the day I would have ripped your hand off. It’s always a bit disappointing when you bogey the last having played it really well – it’s just going to sour the taste a little bit – but all in all I’m really happy.
“I got a little bit lucky out there at times, I chipped in twice, which always helps! It was just solid golf, so same again tomorrow please.
“I’m trying not to be too excited about the prospect of graduating but I’ve been doing the maths in my head and I think I’m going to need around about €30,000, so I’m going aggressive on it. You’re not going to do it by playing safe so keep attacking and a top three finish this week would go a long way.
“I roomed with Jason (Palmer) on one of the satellite tours for a year so I’m very familiar with him and watching him do that kind of stuff last week is a big inspiration for the rest of us. We all know we can do it but he goes and proves it so you just want to go and get the better of him this week.
“It’s only day one so I’ve got three rounds left but I certainly feel like I’m playing well enough to be up there on the back nine on Sunday. That’s the goal, if I can do that then hopefully I can give myself some chances and see what happens.”
Lasse Jensen, meanwhile, is another one of those players seeking to break into the top 15 of the Rankings ahead of next week’s season-ending Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club and the Dane did his chances of achieving that goal no harm with a six under opening 66.
Jensen, who currently lies in 17th place in the Rankings, was one of the unlucky players to be caught in the middle of a brief storm midway through his round and while he did have an umbrella handy on day one, he envisaged it would be utilised for quite a different purpose.
“Me and my caddie were talking this morning about using our umbrella for the sun,” he said. “Then the rain came out and the suddenly umbrella came in handy for other reasons!
“It only rained for one or two holes though. The rain wasn’t too bad but the little sandstorm was worse, because it got into your eyes and onto your skin so it wasn’t too comfortable.
“This start was really what I was hoping for. There are only two weeks left, so to shoot a really good round in the second last tournament is important. No matter where I finish this week, every point is important for the Rankings, but hopefully my game is good enough and I can get a big result and next week will just be a week for fun.”
Jensen was two shots clear of third-placed Gareth Shaw, who celebrated his 29th birthday in style as he signed for an impressive four under par 68 to move into contention for a maiden Challenge Tour title.
65 J Barnes (Eng) ,
66 L Jensen (Den) ,
68 G Shaw (Nir) ,
69 J Palmer (Eng) , C Paisley (Eng) , P Oriol (Esp) , P Edberg (Swe) , A McArthur (Sco) , R Gouveia (Por) ,
70 J Sjöholm (Swe) , G Murray (Sco) , C Hanson (Eng) , P Figueiredo (Por) , B Ritthammer (Ger) , T Remkes (Ned) , P Widegren (Swe) , C McDonnell (Eng) , P Maddy (Eng) , S Henry (Sco) ,
71 B Chapellan (Fra) , R Davies (Wal) , W Booth (Sco) , M Orrin (Eng) , R Kind (Ned) , T Sluiter (Ned) , N Ravano (Ita) , H Bacher (Aut) , M Lafeber (Ned) ,
72 M Ford (Eng) , W Besseling (Ned) , S Hutsby (Eng) , L Kennedy (Eng) , G Cambis (Fra) , J Rask (Swe) , M Delpodio (Ita) , C Ford (Eng) , B An (Kor) , D Law (Sco) , N Quintarelli (Ita) , D Gaunt (Eng) , P Relecom (Bel) , J Senior (Eng) ,
73 P Dwyer (Eng) , A Snobeck (Fra) , E Espana (Fra) , M Tullo (Chi) , O Stark (Swe) , J Fahrbring (Swe) , B Hebert (Fra) , T Pilkadaris (Aus) , B Åkesson (Swe) , P Hedblom (Swe) , T Murray (Eng) , J Lagergren (Swe) , M Fitzpatrick (Eng) , F Bergamaschi (Ita) , A Tadini (Ita) , S Tiley (Eng) , W Harrold (Eng) , J Roos (RSA) , O Farr (Wal) , D Coupland (Eng) ,
74 T Linard (Fra) , C Bouniol (Fra) , M Lampert (Ger) , A Bernadet (Fra) , S Brown (Eng) , J Moul (Eng) , N Dougherty (Eng) , M Jonzon (Swe) , J Stalter (Fra) , J Guerrier (Fra) , A Velasco (Esp) , D Ulrich (Sui) , J Edfors (Swe) , J Garcia Pinto (Esp) ,
75 A Rota (Ita) , R Coles (Eng) , J Winther (Den) , P Stojanovski (Aus) , B Evans (Eng) , J Makitalo (Fin) , D Stewart (Sco) , A Björk (Swe) , N Lemke (Swe) , C Aguilar (Esp) , H McCullen (am) (Eng) , H Mubarak (am) (Brn) ,
76 C Nicoll (Sco) , B Longmuir (Sco) , K Benz (Sui) , M Wiegele (Aut) , A Hortal (Esp) , D Kemmer (USA) , R McEvoy (Eng) , N Yacoob Saleh (am) (Brn) , A Al Rumhy (am) (Oma) ,
77 J Huldahl (Den) , R McGowan (Eng) ,
78 S Fallon (Eng) , C Shinkwin (Eng) , L Gagli (Ita) ,
79 A Al Musharrekh (Uae) , S Arnold (Aus) , C Brazillier (Fra) , H Joannes (Bel) ,
80 M Haines (Eng) ,
82 T Pfister (Sui) , J Lando Casanova (Fra) ,
86 J Townsend (Aus) ,
88 J Singleton (Eng) ,
90 H Al Harthy (am) (Oma) ,
91 D Hon (RSA) ,
92 A Hameed Saleh (am) (Oma)
Source: European Tour