Sizzling Hamza seizes CNS Open lead

31 Aug 2019

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KARACHI: A competitor hits out from a bunker during the second round of the CNS Open Golf Championship at the Karachi Golf Club on Friday.
KARACHI: A competitor hits out from a bunker during the second round of the CNS Open Golf Championship at the Karachi Golf Club on Friday.

KARACHI: Hamza Amin had his moments on in the first round but a mistake at the very beginning let him down. He made sure he wouldn’t be bogged down by any mistake in the second.

On a day when the overnight leaders couldn’t match their first-round performance, Hamza catapulted to the top of the leaderboard of the CNS Open Golf Championship after firing an immaculate 67 here at the Karachi Golf Club on Friday. It gave him a seven-under 137 after two rounds and a two-shot lead over Talib Hussain (69) and Shahid Javed Khan (70).

Shabbir Iqbal, chasing his 12th title at the tournament, shot a 68 to sit at 140, a stroke ahead of five golfers including Mohammad Munir (70), Waheed Baloch (69), Shafaq Khan (70), Mohammad Asif (68) and Mohammad Nazir who hit three eagles in the day’s best score of 64.

But while Nazir’s performance came out of the blue following his 73 in the first round, Hamza had given ample signs in the first round that he was in very good form.

“The CNS Open is a very prestigious tournament and was on the Asian Tour last year so of course it would be great to win it,” Hamza, who came into the tournament on the back of a 23rd-place finish at an Asian Development Tour event in Malaysia, told Dawn.

“My putting has been good and conditions are favourable since the greens are soft after the rains,” added the 31-year-old who struck six birdies in the opening round. “However, key is to be giving this performance over four days.”

He’s been brilliant over the first two days. And his score is remarkable considering he started the tournament with a self-imposed penalty.

Hamza discovered on the first hole that he was carrying 15 clubs in his golf bag — one more than the number allowed — and once he reported that to the chief referee, he was slapped with a two-stroke penalty.

He did well to keep himself in contention after that and pulled away in the second. After his first birdie of the round came on the third hole, he immediately bogeyed the next.

But three straight birdies came after that even if he bogeyed the eighth. Starting the back nine with a birdie, a bogey followed on the 11th before birdies on the 13th, 14th, 15th and the 17th holes. It was understandable then that he wasn’t too happy when he missed a one-foot putt for par on the final hole.

“That was a bad miss but I’m pretty happy with my performance so far,” he said. “I’ve tried to beat the course rather than focus who’s ahead of me of who’s behind and that’s helped me.”

Is he thinking of the title just yet? “There’s still two rounds to play but I’ll try to stick with the game plan and see where it takes me.”

In those two rounds, there will be some who would be raring to come back. Ahmed Baig, who was in a three-way tie at the top at the end of the first round alongside Shahid and Mohammad Qasim, would certainly be one of them.

The youngster, who came into the tournament on the back of winning the Sindh Open for his first professional title earlier this month, would be looking to rebound from his second round 73 that saw him placed alongside five other golfers at one-under 142.

Matloob Ahmed led a group of another five golfers who are at 143 with three golfers at even par after 36 holes.

Qasim fared the worst of the overnight leaders with a 77 while Salman Akhtarm, who shot a hole –in-one in the first round, missed the cut which was set at 149.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2019