RIYADH: Defending champion Othman Almulla of Saudi Arabia moved on the cusp of back-to-back titles with a three-stroke lead after the second round on Friday in the 2nd Annual SGF (Saudi Golf Federation) Golf Championship at Dirab Golf & Country Club.
Almulla’s game was on shaky ground, the result of his so-so driving, until two birdies coming home put damage under control in his card of 75, three over on the flat tree-lined layout that bared its fangs and had players struggling with soaring scores.
Together with a first-round 70, Almulla totaled 145 and will start in the last group for the 3rd and final round Saturday with fellow countryman Saud Al Sharief and Bahraini veteran golfer Hamad Mubarak.
The reed-thin Al Sharief, a rising young talent with a maturity for the modern game that is well beyond his years, shot a second-round 75 on a sunny windless day for a 148, three strokes off the pace.
Mubarak also fired a 75 for 150 in a tie with the UAE’s Ahmad Skaik, who returned the day’s second-best score of 73 to make up four strokes on his first-round 77.
Skaik will be in the second to the last group Friday with Qatari Saleh Al Kaabi and the 21-year old Bahraini Fahad Abdullah Sultan.
Al Kaabi is on 151 after a 76 Friday while Fahad sits a stroke back on 152 thanks to the day’s best round of 72.
Bunched on 153 is a quartet representing different countries: Bahrain’s Nasser Yacoub (76), Faisal Salhab of Saudi Arabia (75), Oman’s Azan Al Rumehy (79) and Korea’s M.S. Kim (76).
Despite the difficult playing conditions the day’s round yielded highlight shots – two eagles by Mubarak and one of the leading Filipino golfers Alex Arellano. Mubarak had an eagle two on No. 12 when his 60-degree wedge from 65 yards found the cup after a three-wood teeshot. Arellano made eagle on the par-5 dog-leg right 13, holing an 8-foot downhiller after a good drive and three-wood approach.
“My driving let me down today, which is a surprise, as it is the strength of my game,” said Othman, winner of the MENA Tour Order of Merit for MENA Division.
“I regrouped and told myself I knew there will be opportunities for birdies on the last few holes,” he said.
Starting on the back nine, Othman was dropping shots faster than he could gain them. After the par-3 fourth hole, his 13th of the day, Othman was 5-over. He pulled one back on No. 5 where he sank an uphill birdie putt from 10 feet following a lovely approach shot.
Othman then parred the next three holes and enjoyed a birdie finish on 9. His 5-iron second shot from 230 yards out landed pin high in the rough to the right from where he chipped to five feet and made the putt.
“I think I need to putt some work on the range. Need to play good game tomorrow,” Othman told Arab News, as he tries to go for wire-to-wire victory in the biggest amateur golf event in the Kingdom organized by Saudi Golf Federation and that attracted the region’s best players.
With only three shots separating Othman and Al Sharief, a 12th grade student at Naseem International School in Bahrain, Saturday’s battle for all the marbles could go either way.
“I’m still in contention. I’ll try my best. I had my chances today flicking wedges from all over, but failed to take them,” said Al Sharief.