Qatar national team standout Saleh Al Kaabi played near-flawless golf in the round that mattered most to pull off a three-stroke come-from-behind victory on Saturday in the 2nd Annual SGF Open Golf Championship 2016 at Dirab Golf & Country Club on the outskirts of Riyadh.
The dusky 21-year old who works at Qatar Olympic Committee was dialed in for the final round, as he fired a sparkling bogey-free 5-under 67 to finish the three-day 54-hole prestigious event on two-over total of 218.
Al Kaabi was six strokes down to overnight leader Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla at the start of the day.
Al Kaabi opted to play aggressively to have any chance at catching Othman, attacking the pins in wild abandon for birdies on 2, 3 and 9.
At the turn, the two players were even at 4-over for the tournament, with Almulla dropping three shots with consecutive bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5 and double bogey on 8.
Leader in the first two days, Almulla went south Saturday, couldn’t convert birdie chances on 13 and 15 and even dropped a shot on 18 for a final round 76 and 221 total.
In contrast, Al Kaabi had no mistakes, hitting the ball pure on a day the cool wind blew in glorious sunshine. Playing in a group ahead of Almulla, Al Kaabi took the lead with a birdie on par-5 13 where he hit a 5-iron approach that found the green, after a monster drive, and made two putts.
On 15, another birdie hole albeit a narrow one, Al Kaabi pulled 2-iron from his bag for his tee shot and approach, while his chip from 30 yards for eagle was just 4 inches short. He then pumped his fist in celebration after sinking the gimme birdie. Just like that, it was all over but the shouting for Al Kaabi, who birdied all but one of the four par-5s.
“It was a good tournament. My friend Othman was leading by six on me. I know he’s a good player and won last year. I was trying my best so I can compete against him. I’m happy I played well on the final day,” said Al Kaabi, who came down to Riyadh for this tournament organized by Saudi Golf Federation fresh from a runner-up finish in the King Hamad Trophy amateur division in Bahrain two weeks ago.
“Yeah, I would love to,” replied Al Kaabi when asked if he will defend his title next year.
For his part, Othman said “I did very well to recover on the back nine to give myself a lot of opportunities for birdies but unfortunately chips didn’t fall in my way today.”
“I felt like I had a good lead, had a few loose shots that cost me dearly,” he added.
In third place behind Al Kaabi and Almulla was Bahrain’s Saqer Alnoaimi (73) who was on 225, followed by Saudi young talent Saud Al Sharief who had a final round 79 for 227, UAE’s Ahmad Skaik (79) 229 and Bahraini veteran Hamad Mubarak (79) 229. Rounding out the top 10 winners who were awarded prizes were Saudi Faisal Salhab (77) 230, seventh; Nasser Yacoub of Bahrain (78) 231, eighth; Bahraini Hamad Alaathem (77) 233, ninth; and Qatari Abdulrahman Al Shahrani (75) 234, 10th.
The Best Net winner was the 14-year old Finnish Niklas Korjonen, who totaled 216 from gross score of 252. He played off 12 handicap.
The awarding ceremony took place at the club premises after Saturday’s third and final round. Chief guest was Abdulilah bin Saad Ablak, deputy assistant of General Authority of Sports and Saudi Olympic Committee Chairman Prince Abdullah bin Mosaed bin Abdulaziz. Also present were SGF President Yousuf Eddiweesh and Mohammed Ibrahim Abunayyan, chairman of Abunayyan Group of Companies.
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