KARACHI: Another course record for Shabbir Iqbal led to another title for Pakistan’s top golfer.
Shabbir won the CAS Open Golf Championship, smashing the course record with an eight-under 64 in the final round at the Airmen Golf Course on Sunday in a performance exemplifying why he is the best in the country.
That too, after he started the final round with the narrowest of leads — a stroke over Mohammad Ashfaq and two clear of Mohammad Munir.
By the time they finished, Shabbir was seven shots clear of his closest challenger Matloob Ahmed.
The finish too was typical Shabbir. He sank a birdie — his ninth of the day — on the 18th hole for an 11-under 277.
Matloob, who started the day three shots adrift, tried to keep pace but despite his 68 he stood no chance of overhauling a rampant Shabbir.
Munir (72) finished three shots behind Matloob on 287, a shot clear of Ashfaq (74).
Taimoor Khan’s 70 saw him end in fifth place on 291, a stroke ahead of first-round leader Waheed Baloch (75), Mohammad Nazir (70).
Defending champion Ahmed Baig (72) was in a group of four that ended on 294 including Hamza Amin (78), Mohammad Naeem (73) and Amjad Yousuf (70).
The CAS Open is the second title Ahmed has relinquished to Shabbir in the last three weeks, the young sensation seeing the Pakistan number one romp to the Sindh Open two weeks ago.
Ahmed avenged that defeat by winning the DHA Karachi Cup last week — ahead of Shabbir — but the 22-year-old was no match for the seasoned Shabbir at the Airmen.
In his illustrious career, Shabbir has played some exceptional final rounds. Sunday’s round was one of them.
Ashfaq stuck close to Shabbir till the sixth hole, both matching each other on the first five, sinking birdies together on the third.
But as Shabbir birdied the sixth, Ashfaq bogeyed.
A bogey on the seventh mattered little for Shabbir, who rebounded with birdies on the eighth and ninth holes and entered the back nine three shots clear of Munir.
Ashfaq was then five shots behind Shabbir and his challenge well and truly ended with a double bogey on the 10th.
Shabbir ramped up the pressure with a birdie on the 11th and the wheels came off Munir’s challenge when he double bogeyed the 12th.
It was Shabbir’s title to lose after that and he made sure of it in style, rattling off birdies on the 13th, 14th, 16th and 18th holes.
Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021