Syed Saqib Ahmed breaks into the winner’s circle with a gritty final day performance at the PGTI Cochin Masters presented by CIAL Golf Club
As it turned out, the 23-year-old did survive a few anxious moments towards the end of round four of the PGTI Cochin Masters presented by CIAL Golf Club before signing off with a gritty even-par-72 that helped him break into the winner’s circle on the PGTI.
Saqib triumphed by three shots as his total score read 10-under-278 at the Rs. 40 lakh event.
Delhi’s Honey Baisoya carded the day’s joint best score of 67 to finish runner-up at seven-under-281. Syed Saqib Ahmed (69-66-71-72), the overnight leader by four shots, seemed to be cruising to his first title after he was even-par for the day through 14 holes. But with the finish line in sight, Saqib felt the pressure and stumbled with bogeys on the 15thand 16th after finding the hazard on both holes. His lead was thus reduced to just one shot over Honey Baisoya.
However, Ahmed, a former No. 1 on India’s junior circuit, regained his hold on the match with a tenacious display over the last two holes where he sank consecutive birdies including one from 20 feet. The hard-fought win, his first as a professional, earned him a prize money cheque of Rs. 6 lakh and took him to the top of the 2018 PGTI Order of Merit.
Saqib, who had earlier won multiple titles as both a junior and amateur, said, “The bogeys on 15 and 16 put me in a tricky position, just one ahead of Honey. That meant I had to make pars on the last two holes which was not an easy task. I told myself just to play one shot at a time. The birdies on the last two holes came just at the right time. I couldn’t have asked for anything more at that point.
“When I was in trouble, my playing partners Abhijit Singh Chadha and Amardip Sinh Malik were very supportive. They asked me to calm down and play my usual game as they saw some nerves in me. That helped a lot. I must also add that I spoke to my good friend Khalin last evening and he helped me out a lot with his inputs as he’s been in such situations before. He asked me to play each shot as it comes.
“The twin setbacks on the back-nine also brought back some memories of a 2016 event where I lost out on the title despite leading by four shots with just four holes to play. But I managed to block out those thoughts quickly and decided to stick to the present. That’s what finally saw me through.
“I hit it exceptionally well through the week even though my putting wasn’t that great. The CIAL Golf Club has developed into an excellent venue over the years and I’d love to be back here next year.
“It’s a blessing that the win has come so early in the year. It gives me the confidence and momentum for the rest of the season.
“My good friend Khalin Joshi is just one shot behind the lead going into the final round of the Maybank Championship in Malaysia. I hope he wins there so that it’s a memorable week for both of us.”
Honey Baisoya mixed seven birdies with two bogeys during round four to gain six spots and finish second.
Bengaluru’s M Dharma, like Baisoya, fired the day’s joint best score of 67, to finish tied third at five-under-283 along with Chandigarh’s Abhijit Singh Chadha (73).
Gurgaon-based Ankur Chadha closed the week in fifth place at four-under-284.