Shubhankar Sharma lives up to ‘favourite’ tag with a scorching 66 for first round lead at McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2017
Kolkata, December 21, 2017: Chandigarh lad Shubhankar Sharma, fresh from his maiden international win last week, lived up to the tag of being the pre-tournament favourite at the McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2017 with a scorching opening round of six-under-66 that gave him the lead.
Bengaluru’s Rahil Gangjee, playing at his former home course, the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC), and Rashid Khan of Delhi also got off to impressive starts with scores of five-under-67 to share second place at the PGTI’s season-ending event worth Rs. 1.5 crore.
Twenty-one-year-old Shubhankar Sharma, who won the Joburg Open 10 days ago to become the youngest Indian to win on the European Tour, continued his hot form with a top-class 66 at the RCGC. Shubhankar’s accurate hitting ensured he kept landing it close to the pin on the front-nine where he had five birdies and a bogey.
Sharma sank his longest putt of the day, a 30-footer, for birdie on the 10th and followed that up with another birdie on the 11th to move to six-under. He then made pars all the way till the end. He signed off with a brilliant chip-putt to save par on the 18th.
Shubhankar said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the week. I was four-under after nine and six-under after 11 holes. I’ve been striking it well and of course the confidence is high after two good weeks in Asia. I feel with my current state of mind, even if I hit a few bad shots, I’m confident enough to still shoot a low number.
“I’ve had some success at the RCGC having won the All India Amateur Championship here in 2012 and a PGTI event in 2016. So I have a comfort level on this course. If you get hot here, nothing can stop you from scoring low.”
Rahil Gangjee, now a Bengalurean, fired a bogey-free 67 to make a grand start to the week in his original home Kolkata. Gangjee, who retained his Asian Tour card by a narrow margin after finishing 60th in the Order of Merit last week, sank two 25-footers for birdies on Thursday along with a 20-footer for par on the 13th.
The 39-year-old Gangjee said, “I found something in my set up before the event which really helped me. I was telling my caddie yesterday that I hope it sets in properly. It kind of did, but still got some work to do on it.
“It’s nice to come back to RCGC which has been home to me for most of my life. I always feel good when I come back here. I was really stressed out about retaining my card on the Asian Tour. So it was a big relief to finally seal it last week. Hopefully, with that out of my mind, I can play better this week as I’m more relaxed.”
Rashid Khan, the joint course record holder at RCGC courtesy his 63 at the 2014 McLeod Russel Tour Championship, mixed six birdies with a bogey for his 67. Rashid tapped-in for birdie on the ninth and chipped-in for another birdie on the 13th.
“I’ve not won a professional event at RCGC but always shoot one really good round here. The key was to enjoy the round rather than put pressure on myself to do well. That’s what I changed in my game this year after struggling in 2016. I was targeting a three-under today and ended up with a five-under. So the approach worked well for me,” said Rashid, the reigning PGTI Order of Merit champion.
Among the foreign players in the field, Japan’s Yuwa Kosaihira and Sri Lankan N Thangaraja were the highest-placed in tied fourth at 69 along with Delhi’s Sachin Baisoya and Patna’s Aman Raj.
Local favourite SSP Chawrasia carded a 71 to be tied 12th while Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu was a further shot back in tied 20th.
Jyoti Randhawa’s first round 73 placed him tied 27th.