KARACHI: It was just past afternoon, the greens glistening under the bright winter sunshine at the Karachi Golf Club when overnight leader Waheed Baloch prepared to tee off in the second round of the Rashid D. Habib Memorial National Profes­sional Golf Tournament on Friday.

A shot in front of two challengers at the start, Waheed is now two ahead of one with another sparkling round of five-under 67 in which he fired six birdies before bogeying the final hole.

His closest challenger is Hamza Amin, who also matched his first-round score of 68. Defending champion Shabbir Iqbal did the same when he shot a 69.

All that means 2016 winner Waheed — at 10-under 134 — is now two ahead of Hamza and four ahead of Pakistan number one Shabbir heading into the final two rounds. Ansar Mehmood (70), who was tied on second with Hamza after the first round is now tied with four-time winner Shabbir at 138.

Talib Hussain (70) is a further shot adrift, one ahead of Mohammad Munir (71) while former champion Matloob Ahmed (69) and Mohammad Ashfaq (72) are tied at 141, a shot better than Mohammad Alam (69).

It wasn’t a good day for young guns Minhaj Maqsood Warraich and Ahmed Baig, both having emerged as strong rivals to Shabbir in tournaments last year.

Minhaj, who won the Chairman JCSC Golf Championship — the previous event held at the KGC at the end of last year, returned a card of 77 which saw him finish 14 shots off the lead while Ahmed could only manage a 75 for 149 as he escaped the cut by just two strokes.

While things aren’t going Minhaj or Ahmed’s way, they certainly are going Waheed’s way.

Waheed threw away first-round leads in tournaments last year. But on Friday, he made sure there was no slip-up this time around.

After sinking consecutive birdies on the fourth and fifth holes, he had to wait until the 10th hole for his third. There was then a flurry of birdies from the 15th to the 17th. He was aiming for another to finish off the round but the final hole was the only blip on his card.

In the last two rounds, he’s been close to perfect. And that’s taken him close to coming out as a winner.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022

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