KARACHI: Ahmed Baig tried his best but there was simply just no stopping Shabbir Iqbal.
The defending champion had a look of resignation on his face as he birdied the final hole here at the Arabian Sea Country Club on Sunday, about to relinquish his Sindh Open Golf Championship crown to Shabbir.
Moments later, Shabbir sealed a record-extending sixth title at the tournament with a no-sweat putt for par on the final hole. The margin of his triumph was that pronounced.
There was little emotion. Just an arm raise to the gallery in celebration, signifying how serene his victory was in the three-round tournament he’s dominated from start to finish.
The Pakistan number one was never really troubled. A final round 69 saw him finish on 15-under 201, five strokes ahead of Ahmed (69) and six ahead of third-placed Wisal Khan (69).
Shabbir, who started the final round with a four-stroke advantage, had effectively sealed the contest by the end of the fourth hole with a second successive birdie. By the time he fired a birdie on the seventh, he was six strokes ahead of Ahmed.
But then he bogeyed the eighth, giving Ahmed and the chasing pack in the leader flight a glimmer of hope.
Ahmed birdied the ninth hole, meaning he had four shots to make up on Shabbir in the final nine holes of the tournament.
Taimoor Khan moved even more close to the leader. At the end of the front nine, he was just two shots adrift.
Ansar Mehmood and Matloob Ahmed were the other two golfers who had started the day four strokes adrift of Shabbir. They were five and six shots behind respectively heading into the back nine.
Ansar’s chances were well and truly over when he bogeyed the 11th hole, which Shabbir, Taimoor and Ahmed birdied.
But that was as good as it got for Taimoor as he imploded on the next three holes; double-bogeying each one of them to finish on 73 and tied for fourth place with Ansar (73) at 210.
Ahmed kept pushing Shabbir, as he birdied the 12th but his challenge was well and truly over when he bogeyed the 15th, paving the way for Shabbir to all but seal the title with a birdie on the 16th.
Matloob, meanwhile, finished 13 strokes behind Shabbir after a disastrous showing on the back nine which included a triple bogey on the 14th.
Mohammad Afzal (70) finished fifth on 211, one shot ahead of Hamza Amin (69), Usman Ali (71) and Mohammad Munir (72).
Mohammad Ashfaq (74), Mohammad Alam (74) and Waheed Baloch (75) finished a further shot adrift.
In the amateurs’ contest, Waqas Burki won the title with a third-round 81 giving him a total of 20-over 236. He finished four shots ahead of ahead of Nadir Khan (86).
Nadeem Iftikhar won the single-round senior amateurs competition after he shot a 75 to finish three shots ahead of Qazi Aamir Hussain. Retired Brig Mohammad Basharat was the net winner.
Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2021