21 Nov 18
David Dixon is on course for a return to the PGA Cup team and a couple of outings on the European Tour following the first round of this year’s PGA Play-Offs in Turkey.
Dixon, who is attached to Enmore Park Golf Club in Somerset, posted a four-under-par round of 67 to lead the 24-strong field in the chase for the £3,500 first prize.
There is more than financial reward at stake in the end of season showpiece at Antalya Golf Club, the home of the PGA National Turkey, however.
The occupants of the first three places will play in the Great Britain and Ireland PGA Cup team charged with recording an historic hat-trick of victories over the USA in Texas next year.
And places in two European Tour events are up for grabs: the top two will also qualify for the 2019 British Masters and the first four the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth next September.
For Dixon, neither would be a new experience. He was a member of the 2015 PGA Cup team that was victorious in America for the first time and he has also won on the European Tour.
But, with two more negotiations of the Sultan Course to come and some high quality pursuers lurking in his slipstream, the 41-year-old will have to draw on his deep well of experience to maintain his slender advantage.
Two members of the triumphant 2017 PGA Cup team, Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon (above) and David Higgins of Ireland are a shot behind on three-under, as is Chris Gane (below), the left-handed Englishman.
David Shacklady, winner of the VTB Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) on this year’s Staysure Tour, and Matt Cort, another from the class of 2017, are also handily placed. They are on two and one-under respectively.
In posting his round of 67, which featured five birdies and a solitary blip at the par-four fourth, Dixon avoided falling foul of a supplementary hazard on a challenging course in pristine condition – crows with a craving for golf balls.
In scenes reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’, the creatures swoop down on to the fairways and greens, not to attack golfers but steal their balls.
The feather-brained critters, it seems, believe a Titleist Pro VI (other brands are available) are eggs and, given half a chance, they will scoop up an unattended ball and take it back to a nest.
On practice day, a new ball owned by Titleist & FootJoy PGA Professional Championship winner Andy Willey made it as far as the first green before it was snaffled by an avian bandit.
Others suffered similarly while in round one five players witnessed their ball, clamped firmly in a carrion’s beak, heading skywards never to be seen again.
All of which has resulted in PGA tournament staff consulting R&A Rules and informing competitors: “It is a question of fact if it is known or virtually certain that a crow has lifted a ball at rest. If this has been determined then free relief can be obtained (under Rule 18-1) by dropping a ball as near as possible at the spot that the ball was lifted. Should it have been lifted on a putting green, then a ball must be placed.