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Shubhankar Sharma’s poise impressive, race open in tough Indian Open golf course

The bunched leaderboard in the Hero Indian Open golf after the third round makes it tough to call, but the Indian player’s temperament likely to play a key role.

other sports Updated: Mar 10, 2018 23:51 IST
Shubhankar Sharma,Indian Open golf,Hero Indian Open
Shubhankar Sharma is the joint leader after the third round of the Indian Open golf.(AP)

What an exciting day’s golf it was at the Hero Indian Open! Of course, personally there was a lot of disappointment that one was not in the thick of it having missed the cut, but I enjoyed the action.

It is a bunched leaderboard and anything can happen. That’s what the spectators want. Only 18 players are in red numbers and eight are within three shots of the lead.

CROWD FAVOURITE

From the home crowd’s point of view, Shubhankar Sharma is right up there in shared lead. So, he has at least a part of the lead for the second week running in different parts of the world. After being in sole lead at WGC-Mexico last week, he is tied first with Matt Wallace in the Hero Indian Open. Both Shubhankar and Wallace are at 7-under.

As for the runaway leader on the first two days, Emiliano Grillo must have realised how difficult it is to keep the lead going. It was always going to be a difficult day and he did give away a lot of shots, with two double bogeys and a bogey in a three-hole stretch from 13th to 15th in his 6-over 78.

Grillo, who had 65-68 on the first two days, finally ran into trouble on the third day at the DLF Golf and Country Club. From 11-under he dropped to 5-under and tied fourth. Yet, he is only two behind the leaders and could well strike back on Sunday.

In between them is Stephen Gallacher, a pedigreed player whose successes include two great wins in Dubai Desert Classic in 2013 and 2014. Gallacher had an incredible five-under 67, the best card of the day during which less than 10 players were in red numbers.

HANDLING PRESSURE WELL

At the end of it, Shubhankar made another upward move and now has a shared lead at seven-under despite an even par 72. Shubhankar. Matt Wallace (70) could well have been in sole lead but for dropped shots on 16 and 17.

Hats off to Shubhankar for keeping his poise and not allowing pressure to get to him. There were times when he seemed to be up against clutch putts and he handled them well. It does mark him out as the player to beat and as one to watch in the coming months.

I think the crucial stretch for him was right in the middle of the round, when he holed three birdies in a span of four holes from seventh to 10th. On a day when the course was tough with tee boxes pushed back and some pins in difficult positions, it was important to make good the chances and he did just that.

Mathias Schwab (68) also made a big move to tied-fourth and Aaron Rai, who played a lot on the European Challenge Tour, was at one stage five-under before he dropped a late double on the 16th.

(The writer is a four-time Asian Tour winner.)

First Published: Mar 10, 2018 22:39 IST