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Shabbir makes it back-to-back titles at Pakistan Open

By Umaid Wasim 2022-01-31
KARACHI: Shabbir Iqbal had done the hard work on Saturday. That meant the country`s top-ranked player could afford to sit back and coast to a successful title defence at the UMA-Pakistan Open Golf Championship here on Sunday.

The triumph at the Karachi Golf Course meant that Shabbir has now managed to reclaim two titles he won last year in two weeks following his victory at the Sindh Open Golf Championship seven days ago.

He could`ve had three successful title defences in three weeks had he not lost a two-hole playoff to Waheed Baloch at the Rashid D. Habib National Professional Golf Tournament at KGC two weeks ago.

Last year, he won five out of eight championships in Karachi. A month into this year, he`s already got two.

In the coming week, he will attempt to win the CAS Open for a second successive year. After that comes the DHA Karachi Cup, one of the tournaments he failed to win last year.

`Records are meant to be broken, Shabbir, who now has 195 career titles,told Dawn after his one-under 70 saw him finish on 14-under 270. `Someone will come through to break the ones Pye set.

The only problem is that there seems no challenger emerging to Shabbir. He`s been imperious in his regal stranglehold over golf tournaments in Pakistan.

Young Ahmed Baig had emerged as a serious challengerlast year.This year,he hasn`t found form, even though his threeunder 68 saw him finish runner-up to Shabbiratfourshotsback.

Another youngster, Minhaj Maqsood Warriach, hasn`t been able to sustain his form going into this year following his triumph at the Chairman JCSC Colf Championship in December. He finished 14 shots behind Shabbir.

Shabbir`s long-time rival Matloob Ahmed (72) finished third on 279, one shot ahead of a group of three that included Waheed, who led for the first two rounds here only for Shabbir to storm clear with a stunning eight-under 63 in the third round.

`Yesterday`s round made it easy for me,` Shabbir admitted. `Today I could afford to relax a bit.

He didn`t seem to be relaxing on thefront nine though, sinking birdies on the third, fifth and eighth holes. That had seen him stretch his lead over Ahmed to seven with nine holes to play.

With nothing to lose, Ahmed upped the tempo with birdies on the 10th and 12th holes but Shabbir had done enough. He could even afford a bogey on the final hole before lifting the trophy with a wide grin over his face.

The $10 million Pakistan Open had began with Pakistan Golf Federation being slammed by its vice-president Asad LA. Khan over the procedure for selecting 15 amateurs to play alongside the professionals at the country`s most lucrative golf tournament, forcing the PGF to clarify the selection process.

National champion Omar Khalid topped the standings among the amateurs his final-round 74 seeing him finish on eight-over 292.

More controversy emerged as the tournament closed on Sunday, although not related to it, that five professional players on the books of DHA were forced to withdraw their entries from the Pakistan by their club as it needed them to prepare the course for the Karachi Cup.