Local hero Shubhankar Sharma ready for summit charge at Hero Indian Open 2018
Gurugram, March 10, 2018: From Joburg to Kuala Lumpur to Mexico and now Gurgaon, Shubhankar Sharma seeks to conquer new worlds. He could well do that at the Hero Indian Open on Sunday and that would take him into the rarefied zone of World’s Top-50. That would open new doors for the 21-year-old, who so far has handled fame and success with amazing poise.
After scaling new heights at his home course, where he set a new course record on Friday, Shubhankar, who is sponsored by Take Solutions, DLF and Indorama Ventures Plc., moved up from second to the very top on Saturday. And now, he shares the lead with Matt Wallace and the two sit side by side at 7-under.
The deal may seem close to being sealed, yet it is very open with no less than 11 players within four shots of the lead. The DLF Golf and Country Club, which yielded really low scores on Thursday (65 by Emiliano Grillo) and Friday (64 by Shubhankar) had its say on Saturday when only nine players shot under par. The best was a 67 by Stephen Gallacher, who is winless since 2014, and his score puts him in a position where he could well hope to end his title drought.
Grillo, who was four shots ahead at the start of the day bogeyed the first, second and fourth hole to open the door for the chasing pack. The lead changed hands a number of times throughout the day.
After playing sublime golf on first two days, when he was 11-under through 36 holes, the Argentinian ended up two shots off the leading pair after a 78 that reflected the scoring on the day. Grillo dropped two doubles and a bogey in a 3-hole stretch from 13th to 15th and a birdie on 18th came as a massive consolation for him; one that could well prove crucial on Sunday.
Wallace was one of those with a sub-par round and his 70 took him to seven under par. He was aided by a brilliant eagle on the ninth which had taken him into the solo lead.
Sharma kept his emotions in check and displayed great patience through the entire round. He dropped five shots today which included a double bogey at the 17th hole, but he also had five birdies to get to seven-under-par 209. The Race to Dubai Rankings leader Sharma recovered from his double bogey on 17th with a birdie on the last.
Sharma said, “It was very windy today. The first two days were surprisingly calm. The course played really tough and I’m very happy with a 72. It was a mixed bag as everything happened. I holed out at the second, made a few good birdies and got a bad bounce on the 17th. I’m very pleased with the birdie at the last, which allowed me to grab a share of the lead. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
“At the second hole, where I holed out, I had a bad lie in the bunker. It was downslope and I didn’t want to duff it, as I’ll have no chance of an up-and-down if that happened. I caught it just on the ball which went over. The ball just came out three yards in front and it went to the centre of the cup. At the fifth hole, as soon as I hit it, I knew I had a birdie chance.”
He added, “I kept telling my caddie that this is our home course. You can’t overpower this course. So, I told myself, just hang in there. I will hit a few bad shots and I understand that it’s all part of the game. You just have to stay patient.” That may well have been the key to his play on Saturday.
“I’m just looking forward to playing out there again. I just want to have fun. It’s the second week in the row I’m in the leading group. I’m going to draw from my experiences last week. I know it’s going to be a battle out there tomorrow and I’ll be ready for it,” added Sharma.
Grillo is in tied-fourth with Austria’s Matthias Schwab (68) and England’s Andrew Johnston (73).
Sihwan Kim of the United States adopted an aggressive, yet calculated approach to card a 72. He is in tied-seven and just three shots behind the leaders along with Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal.