Young Ahmed, holder Matloob share first-round lead

August 17, 2019

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KARACHI: Ahmed Baig competes during the first round of the Sindh Open on Friday.
KARACHI: Ahmed Baig competes during the first round of the Sindh Open on Friday.

KARACHI: If anyone needed evidence why Ahmed Baig is rated so highly in the golf circles of Pakistan, there was plenty at the Arabian Sea Country Club in the opening round of the Sindh Open Golf Championship on Friday.

Playing only his fourth tournament as a professional, Ahmed showed he has both confidence and maturity to reach the very pinnacle of Pakistan golf. For now, he was content with sitting at the top of the leaderboard alongside defending champion Matloob Ahmed.

“So far so good,” he told Dawn after his first-round 67. “But this is only the first round. If I was playing an amateur tournament, this would’ve been a sizeable lead but it means nothing in professional category. Here, every round has to be a good one if you are to win.

“One bad round and you can go from number one to number 20,” he added. “The challenge is to keep up this performance. Tomorrow, I will be playing in the leader flight with Matloob and [Pakistan’s top golfer] Shabbir Iqbal and I’ve to prove I’m worthy of being up there. There will be pressure but it’s okay.”

That’s the sort of confidence that has fuelled Ahmed’s meteoric rise. His confidence was also in full show on the second hole when he struck a splendid eagle. Teeing off from the tenth, the second hole for Ahmed was the par-5 11th hole. A good shot off the tee there can give an easy birdie but Ahmed went one better.

His tee shot was centered before his second shot, a 170-yard drive, landed right of the flag. “It was an easy line and I went for the putt and got an eagle,” Ahmed said. As simple as that.

Under overcast conditions, without the usual Karachi wind, golfers were having little problem executing their shots. Ahmed, though, bogeyed his eighth hole before rebounding superbly on the back nine, reeling off birdies 12th, 14th, 15th and 16th holes to cap of a superb day’s showing.

Matloob, who ended Shabbir’s four-year stranglehold on the Sindh Open title last year, won’t let Ahmed have it easy. He looked on song when he sunk a birdie on the third hole but immediately followed it up with a bogey. Another birdie followed on the seventh before further birdies on the 10th, 14th, 16th and the 17th holes for a share of the lead.

Shabbir was tied with Adil Jahangir, a shot behind the joint-leaders. He had birdies on the fifth and sixth holes but a bogey on the ninth impeded his serene progress. Further birdies followed on the 11th, 15th and 18th holes.

Adil had an incredible start on the front nine, sinking four birdies — on the second, fourth, sixth and seventh holes. He couldn’t however carry that momentum through the rest of the day’s play with a bogey on the14th and a birdie on the 16th rounding off his first-round show.

A trio of golfers including Shahid Javed Khan, Khalid Khan and Shafaq Khan finished the first round on 69 — all shooting four birdies each.

Waheed Baloch was among a group of six golfers who shot a 70 with another seven on 71 and nine finishing on par. Mohammad Munir was among a group that finished a shot over par.

In the amateurs’ category, Mohammad Sharif is the first round leader after he shot a 71 for a one-shot lead over Ghazanfar Mehmood and Junair Irfan. Zohaib Asif is fourth on 73 with Mohammad Shahnawaz and Sajid Khan rounding off the top six after both shot a 74.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2019