KARACHI: A day which started with Mohammad Shehzad tied for the lead with five other golfers ended with him being alone at the top of the leaderboard after three successive birdies on the back nine saw him close a stunning second round of five-under 67 at the Karachi Golf Course on Friday.

It meant Shehzad, who was part of the Lahore Garrison Club that won the All-Pakistan Rumanza Inter-club Golf Championship last month, finished with a one-shot lead at the Rashid D. Habib Memorial Professional Golf Championship as he moved to eight-under 136 overall.

His closest challengers are defending champion Waheed Baloch and Mohammad Zubair, who both fired rounds of 68 having been in a six-way tie for the lead at the end of the first round.

Pakistan’s top golfer Shabbir Iqbal fell off the pace after being in the leading pack on Thursday with his 71 seeing him fall four shots off the lead, tied at 140 with Ashiq Hussain who matched his first-round score of 70.

Mohammad Naeem (70) is a shot further adrift while Aamir Khan (70) and Khalid Khan (72) were tied at 142. Brothers Mohammad Munir and Mohammad Nazir both got 71 and are at 143.

Shabbir’s long-time rival Matloob Ahmed (74) headlines a group of five at 144 while Zahir Shah and Asad Khan, part of the leading sextet after the opening round, among another group at 146.

In an intriguing second round, the lead changed hands several times with Waheed storming in front after the front nine.

Waheed, starting on the red course, opened with a birdie and more followed on the fourth, sixth and ninth holes while Zubair, who’d been in the morning’s first flight on the blue course, had fired three birdies on the front nine but couldn’t replicate that form on his last nine holes even though he went bogey-free.

In contrast, Shehzad, who started on the blue course later in the morning, had a slow start. A birdie on the third hole had been offset by a bogey on the fifth but a sign of what was to come came when he birdied the ninth. He started the back nine with another birdie and then reeled off birdies from the 14th to 16th holes to claim the sole lead.

Waheed would’ve joined him at the top had it not been for a bogey on the 14th even though the holder did get a birdie two holes later.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2023

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