KARACHI: The player in form showed he will be the player to beat at the Chief of Naval Staff Open Golf Championship on Wednesday.
Ahmed Baig, fresh from his triumph at last week’s Pakistan Open, fired three birdies over the last four holes to close the first round on four-under 68 and tied atop the professionals’ leaderboard with Matloob Ahmed.
“The momentum helps definitely,” Pakistan golf’s wunderkind told Dawn. “Victory at the Pakistan Open has of course added to my confidence and I’m looking to do well here as well.”
The CNS Open is one of the few tournaments on the circuit that the 25-year-old has not won so far in his career.
“That’s the added motivation … to win this title,” added Ahmed.
For that, its not only former champion Matloob who he will have to fend off but also two-time defending champion Shabbir Iqbal.
“To beat them, you have to start well and I believe I’ve done that today,” said Ahmed.
Matloob had already returned to the clubhouse before Ahmed finished. In contrast to Ahmed, he went bogey-free with all his four birdies coming on the front nine.
“It was a good day overall,” the 2019 champion told Dawn. “This tournament is always decided by the barest of margins so it’s good to have an early lead.”
Matloob edged a tense playoff for his title four years ago. In the last two editions, Shabbir won the first by a stroke before prevailing in a playoff earlier this year.
The leaderboard is tight after the opening 18 holes this time around as well. A shot behind Ahmed and Matloob are Mohammad Munir and Mohammad Alam.
Another three golfers are at 70 including Mohammad Zubair, Waqar ul Hassan and Mohammad Naeem. Shabbir leads a group of seven at 71 with another eight at even-par 72.
In the amateurs category, Umar Khalid took a three-shot lead with an opening round of one-over 73. His closest rivals are Avullah Ansar and Noman Asghar, with Saim Shazli, Noman Ilyas, Junaid Irfan and Shavaiz Abbas all on 77.
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2023