x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Mohammed Munir adds to joy for Pakistan on a golf course

He becomes second golfer from the nation to win on the Mena Tour following in the steps of Shafiq Masih, writes John McAuley.

Mohammed Munir, the Pakistan No 3, received a cheque of US$9,000 and jumped to second on the professional Order of Merit. Lee Hoagland / The National
Mohammed Munir, the Pakistan No 3, received a cheque of US$9,000 and jumped to second on the professional Order of Merit. Lee Hoagland / The National

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Perhaps the likes of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal should beware: Pakistan's golfers may soon be cutting in on their celebrity.

Mohammed Munir is the man currently occupying his compatriots sporting consciousness, the 38 year old today sealing a wire-to-wire victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, the fourth of the Mena Tour's six tournaments.

The Pakistan No 3 started the day at Tower Links Golf Club with a two-shot lead but, according to his playing partner Gary Knight, was in "cruise control" from the onset, firing four birdies for a three-under-par 69 and a 12-under par total.

Munir, who finished third in the season-opening Dubai Creek Open, makes it a second successive title for Pakistan following Shafiq Masih's win last week at the Dirab Golf Championship. "Maybe we should," joked Munir when pressed if the Mena Tour should initiate a separate tournament for his countrymen. "This is a great victory for Pakistan and it will give golf there a huge boost.

"To follow what Shafiq accomplished in Saudi Arabia is very special and we have made the country very proud. I'm really pleased with this win because I came into the round very relaxed, and from the 10th hole knew I was going to get the victory."

Munir received not only the trophy, a cheque for US$9,000 (Dh33,000) and a jump to second on the professional Order of Merit, but also a congratulatory telephone call from the secretary of the Pakistan Golf Federation.

His closest challenger came in the guise of Zane Scotland, the winner in Dubai last month. The Englishman secured the outright lead in the overall standings with second place here in RAK, after a blistering final round 67.

A place in next season's Omega Dubai Desert Classic beckons - the tour's top three professionals receive invites - however Scotland says there is still work to be done, starting on Monday at Al Badia Golf Club in Dubai. "If you start thinking about the Order of Merit you get yourself in all sorts of bother," he said. "I came to this tour to play well, try to get a win and I've already achieved that.

"I'm somewhat looking through the tournament at qualifying school for the European Tour, so I'm not going to take my foot off the pedal now.

"So far it's going to plan, which is nice, but because I'm playing well I've got to make sure my mind doesn't run away a bit. Focus is key."

Knight, the American who turned professional shortly before this season's tour began, was disappointed with a final round 77, which transformed a potential punt at the title into a tied-14th finish.

"Perhaps I let nerves get the better of me," Knight said. "I didn't hole the putts like I had during the first two days, but I'll be better for this experience.

"It's precisely the reason I decided to turn professional and join this tour, and I've another two weeks to try to get that first victory. I can take a lot of confidence from this week."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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