Sungai Petani: Tears streamed freely down Shaifubari Muda’s cheeks as he claimed an emotional victory at the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Sime Darby Harvard Classic today, beating S. Murthy by two strokes to end a seven-year title drought.
The 54-hole leader, who had a three-stroke advantage coming into the final round, posted a battling three-under 69 for a 15-under 273 total, claiming the winner’s prize purse of RM21,000 in the RM125,000 season-opener at Harvard Golf & Country club.
It was also quite notably, the 39-year-old’s third victory at a Sime Darby-backed championship, having twice claimed the Sime Darby Masters at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country club in 2002 and 2005.
Danny Chia (70) and first round joint leader Wilson Choo (68) took a share of third on 280 while a superb closing round of 66 saw Airil lead a quartet including Md Rashid Ismail, S. Sivachandhran and Mohd Amli Mohiyadeen on seven-under 281.
Putting woes meant that defending Order of Merit champion R. Nachimuthu was nine strokes off the lead in ninth alongside Solhairy Sharif.
Shaifubari was unable to hold back the tears after parring the finishing hole in what turned out to be a pulsating ending to proceedings. Despite leading by a massive five strokes at the turn courtesy of four birdies against a sole bogey on the outward nine, Shaifubari found himself under pressure as Murthy turned on the style, notching a flawless back nine of three-under-par to narrow the deficit.
“There’s just so many people to thank – God for his providence and my wife who has steadfastly been my side and urging me on. Also most importantly, the Saujana family – Tan Sri Razali Abdul Rahman, Dato’ Abu Bakar Mohd Nor, John Eu, the management and members of Saujana Golf & Country Club as well as my equipment sponsors Titleist, who have seen me through good and bad times. I dedicate this victory to all of them,” said Shaifubari, who has been the club’s touring professional since 1999.
“You know, I worked so hard for this moment to come. I persisted through a lot of tough times and this week, I’m just so glad that I managed to keep a consistent rhythm. My putts dropped when I needed them, I secured four sub-par rounds and crucially, I was mentally strong today, especially as my old friend [Murthy] took the game to the wire,” added Shaifubari, who noted that a chip-in birdie on the sixth kept his momentum going early on.
Shaifubari also alluded that a victory so early in the season was a boost for his confidence with another 18 legs to follow over the course of the year. “This victory is definitely the moral boost that I was looking for. To see my game come back has given me that extra ounce of motivation to work harder and aim for bigger things now,” he added.
Despite finishing second, Murthy was pleased with own performance and congratulated Shaifubari on his victory.
“He deserved it because he played well over four days. I gave myself a chance today by shooting five birdies against a bogey on the seventh but he just held the fort. I went for an eagle on the last to force the issue but unfortunately found myself in the bunker. But nonetheless, I feel great to start the year with a solid performance to follow through on my victory at Lanjut in October,” shared the burly professional, who has spend a fair bit of time improving his game under the tutelage of Singapore professional A. Malialagan (Mathi).
The PGM Tour heads to Kelab Golf Putra next for its second stop on the calender – the PGM Perlis Classic from February 8-12.
Leading final round scores (top ten and ties)
273 – Shaifubari Muda (68-66-70-69)
275 – S. Murthy (68-69-70-68)
280 – Wilson Choo (67-72-73-68), Danny Chia (67-72-73-68)
281 – Airil Rizman Zahari (71-70-74-66), Md Rashid Ismail (70-73-69-69), S. Sivachandhran (74-67-69-71), Mohd Amli Mohiyadeen (67-69-72-73)
282 – Solhairy Sharif (70-71-74-67), R. Nachimuthu (72-70-71-69)
284 Mohd Rizal Amin (71-74-72-67)