Airil Lifts Maiden Title at Pakistan Open

Sun 21 Jan 2007

Airil Lifts Maiden Title at Pakistan Open

Karachi, January 21: Malaysia?s Airil Rizman Zahari claimed his maiden Asian Tour title with a thrilling two stroke triumph at the Pakistan Open on Sunday.

Airil, who won seven titles on the domestic circuit, kept his cool under pressure in the closing stages as he fired four birdies against two bogeys for a two-under-par 70 in the final round. The Malaysian secured his title in emphatic fashion with a birdie at the final 18th hole for a 19-under-par 269 total. He finished two strokes ahead of Australian rookie Scott Hend who claimed the runner-up spot after a 69 at the Karachi Golf Club.

He is only the second Malaysian to taste victory on the Asian Tour, following in the footsteps of Danny Chia who triumphed in the Taiwan Open in 2002.

With his biggest win of his career, he walked away with US$47,550 as champion and earned full exemption on the Asian Tour until the end of 2009. With the result, the 29-year-old talent currently leads the Asian Tour?s UBS Order of Merit this season.

Englishman Simon Hurd was even-par for the day and ended his Pakistan campaign with a 274 total in third position while local player Muhammad Shabbir finished seven strokes off the pace in fourth spot after a 71. Chris Rodgers of England, who was last year?s winner, claimed joint fifth place after a 71 alongside India?s Rahil Gangjee who carded a similar score in the final round.

After having nursed a minor ankle injury sustained on Saturday night, Airil remained steady from the start firing a birdie on the third hole before dropping a shot in the following fourth hole. With another birdie on the sixth, Airil kept the momentum going through the back nine with his third birdie of the day at the 14th hole. He then dropped a shot on the 16th hole and despite mounting pressure from Hend, Airil remained calm as he holed a 25 foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to seal his win.

?I can?t believe I did it. It hasn?t sunk it yet,? said Airil.

?The birdie on the final hole was out of this world. My intention was to hit it close to the pin but to see the ball rolling slowly to the pin for a birdie, coupled with the cheers from the local fans, it was a fantastic feeling.

?I played well today and I?m so happy with my performance. I injured my right ankle coming down the bus yesterday but I was not in any pain when I started the round today thanks to the Tour?s physiotherapist Philippa Stewart who did an awesome job,? he added.

Hend, who celebrated the birth of twin babies last month, had shot four birdies against a lone bogey as he delivered a solid start to his rookie season.

 ?My first week here has been pretty good. I am a bit disappointed to come in second though. But it was pretty hard to beat someone who played as good as him (Airil),? admitted Hend.

?It was frustrating for me as I missed a lot of opportunities to put more pressure on him (Airil). I tried to keep the pressure up, but on the back nine, I missed some crucial birdies on the 10th, 11th and 14th but that?s the way golf is,? he added.

Hurd fired three birdies against an equal number of bogeys as he was disappointed with his final round performance.

?I feel like I played well enough but today I hit the ball poorly. I missed too many chances earlier on. I got to a bad start as I was one over par after five where as those two (Airil and Hend) were three to four under,? said Hurd.

?But I want to continue my momentum and hope to finish in the top five in more events this season, that would be great for me,? added Hurd.

The Pakistan Open is the curtain-raising event this season on the Asian Tour which boasts a record of no fewer than 29 tournaments with a total prize fund of over US$26 million.


269 - Airil Rizman Zahari (MAS) 67-68-64-70

271 - Scott Hend (AUS) 70-66-66-69

274 - Simon Hurd (ENG) 68-65-69-72

276 - Muhammad Shabbir (PAK) 66-72-67-71

278 - Chris Rodgers (ENG) 69-70-68-71, Rahil Gangjee (IND) 71-67-69-71

279 - Yeh Chang-ting (TPE) 69-69-72-69, Olle Nordberg (SWE) 72-66-70-71

Ashok Kumar (IND) 71-66-71-71, 280 - Roy Moon (USA) 71-71-71-67, Uttam Singh Mundy (IND) 68-68-75-69, Gavin Flint (AUS) 71-68-72-69, Mark Mouland (WAL) 70-69-71-70, Barry Hume (SCO) 68-68-73-71


The Pakistan Open 2007, being played this week at the Karachi Golf Club, is organised by the Pakistan Golf Federation and sanctioned by the Asian Tour. The main sponsors include National Bank of Pakistan and WARID Telecom. Other main partners include Indus Motors (Toyota) (official hole-in-one sponsor), ASKARI Commercial Bank, AKD Securities, Pakistan State Oil, Pakistan International Airlines, Aquafina, Lipton and Srixon (official golf ball). The Pakistan Open, which is offering US$300,000 in total prize money, is the season-opening event of the 2007 Asian Tour season.

Karachi is +5 GMT and three hours behind Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore.

For further information, please contact Shenton Gomez at the Pakistan Open media centre at +9221 9240919.