Shubhankar Sharma returns even par, Tiger Woods roars with 66 at the British Open
As it turns out, Shubhankar Sharma could have asked for something more on his birthday.
The Indian, who tuned 22 on Saturday, said it was his best birthday ever to be playing the Open Championship this weekend, but felt he could have made a few more birdies in a decent even-par 71 outing.
Sharma made three birdies and three bogeys on a day when conditions were most ideal to post a low score. England’s Justin Rose (64) and Japan’s Yusaku Miyazato (65), playing ahead of him, showed just what was possible in calm conditions with the fairways and greens holding the ball much better following the rains on Friday.
However, the loudest cheers of the day were reserved for 14-time major champion Tiger Woods, who stormed into contention with a five-under 66 round. It took him to five-under par for the tournament and inside the top-10 with leaders still out on the golf course.
For a change from his first two rounds, Sharma did get an early birdie on the second hole with a peach of an approach shot from a tight angle to about six feet. But it was the middle part of his round that left him dissatisfied.
“It was a great day, but I would have liked to have played a little bit better than I did. But, again, I’m very happy that I’m playing today,” said the world No 87 who became the youngest Indian to make a cut in a major championship.
“Had to really grind out a great round yesterday to make it to the weekend, and I thought I played pretty well today. Just didn’t make enough putts. And even though I made that birdie on the second, which was a good start, I couldn’t really capitalise on that start.
“I think I hit it pretty good in the first five, six holes. I was hitting it pretty close. I just needed one more birdie before the sixth hole. Conditions were very, very scorable today. There was no wind at all compared to the first two days.
“So I think, I just went to sleep in the middle of the round, didn’t make enough putts, and that happens in golf.
“I was really happy with the way I finished. Would have been better if I made that putt (a 10-footer for birdie on the 18th), but didn’t hit it where I thought the line was, and it broke too much.”
There is a birthday celebration later in the evening, the guest list includes the man who played a major role in him becoming a golfer – Anirban Lahiri – but Sharma is already thinking of a Sunday charge.
He is very capable of that. In winning the Maybank Malaysian Championship title earlier this year, he shot a final-round 62 in tough conditions.
“Hopefully, tomorrow there will be high winds. My hitting was decent today, much better than the previous day. If I could just keep hitting the ball the way I did today and putt a little bit better, tomorrow will be a better day,” he added.
“I think I need more feel in my putting. That feel factor is missing. It’s just too mechanical. I’m trying to see the line and trying to roll it over the line. I just need that feel in my hand where I can look at the hole and not really have to align the ball. If I do that, a low round is very possible.”
Woods made three birdies in a row from the ninth onwards. He made six birdies and his only mistake was a bogey on the 16th, where he left his first putt from off the green short.
“That was good. I played well today. I really did. I hit a lot of good shots. I really didn’t feel like I really made a bad swing until the 18th and I really felt like I had control of the golf ball today. And on top of that, I made some longer putts,” said Woods, looking for his major title since the 2008 US Open.
“I didn’t want to be too far back if the guys got to 10-under par today. I had to stay within reach. And 5 is definitely within reach.”