CIMB Classic: Shubhankar Sharma in contention for maiden PGA Tour title after taking a share of lead

Kuala Lumpur: Shubhankar Sharma could open the door to a whole new world if he shakes off co-leaders Gary Woodland (67) and Marc Leishman (67) to win his maiden PGA Tour title at the CIMB Classic. Shubhankar , 22, played near perfect golf as he shot 6-under 66 to join the other two at the end of Saturday.

Shubhankar Sharma walks during the third round of the 2018 CIMB Classic golf tournament in Kuala Lumpur. AFP

Shubhankar Sharma walks during the third round of the 2018 CIMB Classic golf tournament in Kuala Lumpur. AFP

He was literally pin-hunting, gunning for the flags and managing to hole birdies consistently. Clearly the presence of his coach, Jesse Grewal and the great memories of his win in Malaysia in February were producing the magic. And he was using the lessons learnt from WGC-Mexico, where was T9 after leading for three days. "I have been in this position before. The good thing is that I've been in this position before so I know what happens and what my mind goes through, so I'll just try and relax myself as much as possible. And the way I'm playing, I'm pretty sure I'll play well tomorrow as well," he said

That's confidence for sure.

This is the second time in his career, that Shubhankar will carry at least a share of lead into the final round and play in the lead group. Last time he was on top sole was by two shots after 54 holes at WGC-Mexico in March this year.

Both Woodland and Leishman, who shared the 36-hole lead, have three PGA Tour wins each, while Shubhankar is looking for his first and seeking to become only the second Indian after Arjun Atwal to taste victory on the world’s biggest Tour.

Gaganjeet Bhullar (71) had three birdies against two bogeys to be 6-under 210 and T-42, while Anirban Lahiri (68) finally had some putts falling with six birdies, but he dropped a shot each on seventh and 17th. Lahiri was 2-under and T-64th. Rahil Gangjee (73) was lying 77th at 5-over for three days.

Trailing Woodland and Leishman by one, Shubhankar poured seven birdies against one bogey to card 66. The bogey was his first 21 holes – the previous bogey came on second, which was his 11th hole in the second round. Shubhankar's third round birdies came on second, third, fifth and seventh and then 10th, 13th and 17th. He missed a couple of short birdie putts, including a four-footer on 16th. “Yes, I am very happy. I got off to a flyer, front nine was great as I was 4-under through seven. On the back nine I made a lot of crucial par putts and missed a few coming in, but really happy with the way I played and hung in there.”

“Overall, I would say it was a great scoring round, but I feel I can still hit it better. Maybe yesterday was a better ball-striking round compared to today, but on this golf course you have to really get into that zone and I've been able to do that for the past three days and that's why I've been scoring really well. But I still feel like there are a few changes I can make and come back strong tomorrow,” he added.

He also pointed out the par save on eighth was rather crucial, at which point he was 4-under through seven holes. “It (the par) was very important, it could have been a momentum changer. I hit a terrible shot and then had a bad lie and tried to hit a good shot but didn't come off. Could have been a double bogey also, but that third chip was just perfect. I think that was the turning point for me. A bogey there would kind have pushed me back. It could have been a potential double as well because it was a tough chip as well.”

He added. "I'll just chill out, I won't really do much. I'll just go in, hang out probably with Rahil, maybe with Anirban, talk a little and just do normal stuff that I've been doing every day.“

Woodland 4-under through first eight, had six birdies against one bogey on 14th. He had a long eagle putt on Par-5 18th to take sole lead, but only birdied it to join Shubhankar and Leishman, who settled for pars.

Leishman had an eagle and three birdies on his first five holes to be 5 under through five. But on the back nine, he bogeyed the 11th and 13th after getting a birdie on the 10th.

The three leaders were two shots ahead of South African Louis Oosthuizen (65) and the first-round leader Bronson Burgoon (67).

The day’s lowest card came from the 2009 Open winner, Stewart Cink, who brought home a 63 and is now T-7 alongside five others.

Two-time CIMB winner, Justin Thomas (69) was 12-under and seven shots off the lead on another high-scoring day, when only as many as 60 of the 78 players shot in the 60s.

It is also the second time at the CIMB Classic, that an Indian player has had at least a share of the lead after 54 holes – Anirban Lahiri was leader by four after three days at the CIMB Classic in 2015, when Justin Thomas came from behind and won the title.


Updated Date: Oct 13, 2018 20:25 PM

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