RIYADH: ARAB NEWS
Thursday 11 October 2012
Last Update 11 October 2012 6:34 am
Nerves were strained to the breaking point as Shafiq Masih overturned a three-shot final round deficit to squeeze past Craig Smith of Wales and win the American Express Dirab Golf Championship, the third event on the 2012 MENA Golf Tour, in playoff yesterday.
Digging deep into his knowledge of the course, the Pakistani ace matched the Welshman’s sizzling final round 66 — a new course record — to force a playoff after both finished level on eight-under 208 in regulation.
Masih birdied the first extra hole, the par-4, 18th to wrap up the biggest win of his career while Smith landed his approach in the bunker and had to settle for a par in a dramatic finish to the $50,000 tournament, held under the patronage of Youth Welfare Presidency Chairman Prince Nawaf bin Faisal.
England’s Ian Keenan carded back-to-back 69 to finish third on seven-under 209, one shot ahead of joint overnight joint leader William Harrold and two off Daniel Owen.
The day, however, belonged to Masih, a former golf instructor at the Dirab Golf & Country Club. Consistent from tee to green, Masih rattled off seven birdies with just one bogey (on the 10th) to catch up with Smith, his playing partner for the day, before seeing off his challenge in the playoff.
American Express Saudi Arabia COO Fahad Al Guthami presented the winner’s trophy to Masih in the company of Saudi Golf Federation President Khaled Abunayyan, Adel Zarouni, secretary of Arab Golf Federation; and Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour.
“It feels just great to win an international event of this stature,” said a jubilant Masih, who is supported by TechAccess, after receiving the biggest purse ($9,000) of his career.
“I have won a couple of tournaments in Pakistan, but this win is special. Special in the sense it has come on a course where I used to give golfing lessons to members of the club.
“In a way, my reputation was at stake. Well, I couldn’t have asked for more. This victory is a victory for Pakistan golf,” he said.
Smith also had his chances, but fumbled at the final hurdle, hitting his second shot into a greenside bunker in the playoff. He did hole a 10-footer for par, but it wasn’t enough in the end.
Disaster struck Daniel Owen on the par-5, 15th where he took a 10 and that completely blew his chances of winning the event. Take that away, and his walk up the 18th fairway might have been triumphant.
Morocco’s Amine El Malki finished on top in the amateur division with impressive rounds of 69 71 and 72. He was followed in that order by fellow countryman Mustapha El Maouas and Saudi Arabia’s Faisal Salhab, who received a special prize from American Express for posting the best finish by a Saudi in the tournament.
A new initiative of the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, the MENA Golf Tour is affiliated to R&A and the Arab Golf Federation. The six-stop tour, which is backed by Omega and Mercedes-Benz, boasts a combined prize fund of $325,000.
In addition to American Express, Omega and Mercedes-Benz the other major sponsors are: Golf Citizen, General Presidency of Youth Welfare, Saudi Arabian Golf Federation, Dirab Golf & Country Club, Al Khozama Management Company(AKMC), Almarai, Radisson Blu and Go Etihad Atheeb Telecom Company.
Meantime, Saudi Oger Ltd. has confirmed to sponsor the 2012 edition of the Saudi Oger Amateur Golf Championship set for Nov. 21-23 at Dirab Golf & Country Club. This is the fourth straight year Saudi Oger will be sponsoring the country’s top amateur golf competition.
Leading scores after the final round:
208 – Shafiq Masih (Pakistan) 68 74 66; Craig Smith (Wales) 73 69 66 (Masih wins on first playoff hole)
209 – Ian Keenan (England) 71 69 69
210 — William Harrold (England) 68 71 71
211 – Daniel Owen (England) 71 68 72
212 — Duncan Stewart (Scotland) 68 74 70; Amine El Malki (Amateur — Morocco) 69 71 72
213 – Zane Scotland (England) 69 73 71; Fredrik Quicker (Sweden) 73 69 71;
214 — Cennydd Mills (Wales) 73 72 69; Gavin Dear (Scotland) 73 68 73; Faycal Serghini (Morocco) 71 71 72
212 — Amine El Malki (Morocco) 69 71 72
218 — Mustapha El Maouas (Morocco) 72 74 42
219 – Faisal Salhab (Saudi Arabia) 73 73 73
221 — Michael Harradine (Switzerland) 74 74 73
221 — Ahmed Marjan (Morocco) 75 75 71
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