“I need to play with my brain this week,” declared Keita Nakajima after his final practice round at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
The World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) Number One from Japan was referring to his aggressive strategy of trying to hit a driver off the tee on any given hole that is not a par 3. It stems from an immense belief in his ability with that particular club.
So much so that he famously wielded his driver on every par-4 and par-5 holes in two tournaments this year – the Kanto Regional College Tournament, where his team finished second, and then at the Panasonic Open on the Japan Golf Tour, which he won playing against professionals.
The Dubai Creek course is a different beast though, with water coming into play on ten holes and wind that can become unpredictable. Also, the fairways become extremely narrow because of protruding water hazards in the landing areas on the second and sixth holes.
Nakajima, who finished T-2 along with Rayhan Thomas in the 2018 AAC, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, reigning Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama, and his closest friend Takumi Kanaya in becoming the third Japanese winner of the premier regional golf championship.
“I like playing aggressive golf, and I think I am pretty good with my driver,” said the 21-year-old Nakajima, who took over as the World No. 1 amateur when Kanaya turned pro.
“I hit it long and straight most times, and if you can do that, you can use your driver on all 14 non par-3 holes. An extra 20-25 yards off the tee compared to other players in the field is a big advantage.
“It’s not like I would use the driver on every hole in every tournament. There are some courses where that’s just not possible…too much trouble around the landing areas. Dubai Creek is definitely one of them.”
Nakajima was playing his first two rounds alongside the defending AAC champion Yuxin Lin of China and the highest ranked Indian player in the field – No. 158 Rohan Dhole-Patil.