Kuala Rompin: Airil Rizman Zahari hung on by his teeth to clinch a closely-fought Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) PNB Lanjut Classic on Saturday, recording his second victory of the season on the burgeoning domestic circuit.
The 34-year-old carded a round of two-under 70 for a four-day total of 12-under 276 to see off closest challenger Akhmal Tarmizee Nazari (71) by one shot in the RM125,000 leg at the Lanjut Golden Beach & Golf Resort.
Joint overnight leader S. Murthy, who claimed the inaugural tournament last year, looked to have fought his way back into contention with a spectacular eagle at the par-five eighth after a run of three consecutive bogeys but ran out of birdies on the home stretch to take a share of third alongside halfway leader Mohd Nazri Mohd Zain on nine-under 279.
The seasoned pair of current Order of Merit champion R. Nachimuthu and Sukree Othman were tied for fourth on 283, one shot ahead of S. Sivachandhran alongside youngster Kenneth Tobuse, who nailed his best finish yet on the burgeoning domestic circuit.
As expected, the three-way contest between Murthy, Airil and Akhmal proved to be a compelling one, with the Perlis Classic winner Airil delivering the first blow when he birdied the opening hole to move to 11-under-par. But the 23-year-old Akhmal, chasing his maiden professional victory, responded with a gain of his own on the second to move level again.
Airil then added a further three birdies against Akhmal’s two to take an one-shot advantage through 11 holes and used all his experience to hold on to that advantage, despite the the pair trading two bogeys a piece on the inward nine.
“It was really tight all the way to the end but I am glad that I kept it steady and held on to win. It’s not always that you can pull off a win like that with a bogey on the closing hole,” said Airil, who earned his second winner’s payout of RM21,000.
“I really haven’t changed anything since the victory in Perlis but recently, I got a new caddy on my bag and he has definitely clicked in place. He reads the lines really well and it’s a welcome addition because it always helps to have another assuring pair of eyes when you’re beginning to tire late on,” he added.
Final leading scores
276 Airil Rizman Zahari 66-70-70-70
277 Akhmal Tarmizee 67-71-68-71
279 S. Murthy 69-69-68-73; Mohd Nazri Mohd Zain 68-66-77-68
283 R. Nachimuthu 67-70-73-73; Sukree Othman 73-72-68-70
284 S. Sivachandhran 71-73-69-71, Kenneth Tobuse 70-69-75-70
285 M. Sasidaran 69-72-72, Mohammad Azry Asyraf Noor Azam 78-71-67-69, Lim Eng Seng 75-71-71-68
286 Mohamad Alwarith 71-68-74-73, Kemarol Baharin 72-73-70-71, Mohd Hafiy Suhaili 75-73-69-69