The European Tour is set to open a new chapter in its history of staging golf tournaments all around the world when it visits the city of Muscat for the first time this week for the inaugural NBO Oman Open.
In staging this new event, Oman joins the long list of 44 countries that have served the European Tour in this way and, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, is the 4th middle east nation to do so.
The NBO Oman Open is also one of the three all-new events being staged this year by the European Tour, the others being the Belgian Knockout and the 2018 Shot Clock Masters.
Despite it being a first-time destination for a European Tour event, Muscat and its hosting club, Al Mouj Golf, however, are no strangers to a large number of European golfers, especially among those who have come up from the ranks of its feeder Challenge Tour.
From 2015-2017 it was the venue for the Challenge Tour's big, season-closing finale, the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final where the best 15 Challenge Tour players earned their European Tour cards - and, yes, this was only one of the five Challenge Tour tournaments hosted by Al Mouj Golf, among them the National Bank of Oman Classic from 2013-14.
Ricardo Gouveia, Bernd Ritthammer, and Clément Sordet, the last three winners of the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, are all in this week's Oman field playing at Al Mouj Golf.
So too are other overall Challenge Tour champions down the years, including Thomas Bjørn (1995), Mark Foster (2001), Lee Slattery (2004), Marc Warren (2005), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (2007), David Horsey (2008), Edoardo Molinari (2009), Andrea Pavan (2013), Andrew Johnston (2014), Jordan Smith (2016) and Tapio Pulkkanen (2017).
The British bookmakers see the on-form US-born French star, Alexander Levy, bidding strongly right now for a place in the Ryder Cup's European team that plays the USA outside Paris in his home nation later this year, as their favourite in a field missing a good number of Europe's biggest guns including Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Tim Fleetwood.
Levy's tie for for 7th in Abu Dhabi where he was always a contender in the strong field and his tie for 4th in Dubai a little later in an equally strong field where, once more, he contended, have seen the bookies set him atop their list of favourites at 14/1 with England's Andy Sullivan, a runner-up in recent times in both the Dubai Desert Classic and DP World Tour Championship, along with new Indian revelation Shubhankar Sharma, already a two-time winner this season, next best at 18/1.
The bookies seem to have got their sums right with these three - and I don't think they are too far off with the 18/1s they have alotted Dutchman Joost Luiten, but South Korean Wang Jeung-hun looks to be a better bet than 30/1.
The man seems to be something of a desert specialist. He won the 2017 Qatar Masters in his first crack at the title, has been tied for 11th and 15th in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and was tied for 6th in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year. So yes, watch out for this man.
Mind you, in fields of this nature, there is always a chance of an unheralded youngster like Sharma was a month or two ago before his two victories, of making their big breakthrough.
Don't be too surprised, then, if someone like one of the most recent Challenge Tour champions like Gouveia, Ritthammer, or Sordet come out and make hay on a course where they have already triumphed.
The course: Designed by iconic Australian golfer Greg Norman and opened in September 2012, its links-type 7,342-yard par-72 track stretches across six kilometres of coastline against the startling blue backdrop provided by the flanking Indian Ocean.
In many ways, it is similar to the course that stages the Mauritius Open. And guess what - that's a venue where Wang has won.
And the weather? Wind can be a factor on this ocean-side course, but it shouldn't be this time.
Not according to our Goldweather.com forecasters. They don't expect the daily breezes to get up above 13km/h for any of the four rounds.
Rain will stay away and it will be warm as opposed to hot. You could hardly ask for better.
(Tuesday a.m. Feb 13, 2018)
Alexander Levy 14/1
Shubhankar Sharma 18/1
Andy Sullivan 18/1
Joost Luiten 22/1
Thomas Detry 22/1
Jeunghun Wang 30/1
Pablo Larrazabal 35/1
Jorge Campillo 40/1
Alexander Bjork 40/1
Lucas Herbert 40/1
Jason Scrivener 40/1
Fabrizio Zanotti 45/1
Richie Ramsay 50/1
Sean Crocker 50/1
David Horsey 50/1
Matthieu Pavon 50/1
Romain Wattel 50/1
Haydn Porteous 50/1
Richard Sterne 50/1
Andrew Johnston 55/1
Mike Lorenzo-Vera 55/1
Soren Kjeldsen 60/1.
NOTE: For all odds visit www.oddschecker.com/golf/nbo-oman-open/winner.
And for more betting odds visit BetWay.
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