Shubhankar Sharma of India hits a shot during round one of the 147th Open golf Championship at Carnoustie.(AFP)
Shubhankar Sharma of India hits a shot during round one of the 147th Open golf Championship at Carnoustie.(AFP)

Shubhankar Sharma youngest Indian to make cut in a Major

Turning 22 on Saturday, Shubhankar Sharma gave himself a nice birthday present after rallying through the back nine to ensure he made it to the weekend at the British Open golf tournament.
Hindustan Times, Carnoustie (Scotland) | By Joy Chakravarty
UPDATED ON JUL 20, 2018 10:51 PM IST

Shubhankar Sharma ensured a cheerful birthday after a heroic effort over the back nine of the demanding Carnoustie course to make his first cut in a Major.

Shubhankar, who turns 22 on Saturday, was staring at the prospect of an idle weekend having ballooned to five-over for the tournament after the front nine on Friday. Nothing seemed to be working for him – his hitting had suddenly gone wayward and the putts were refusing to go in.

He then turned it around in the most cavalier fashion. The back nine of Carnoustie is brutal in the best of conditions; it was spiteful with incessant rain and cold. But a birdie on the 10th from 15 feet set the tone, and the piece de resistance was the one on 18th, where he hit a stunning second shot from the rough to six feet to sign for an even-par 71.

After a two-over 73 on Thursday, Sharma’s four bogeys, including three on the front nine, were off-set by four birdies on the back nine. The total of two-over 144 should be enough for a ticket to the weekend. Halfway into the second round, 70 players were tied at that score with the possibility of the cut even going to three-over par.

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Zach Johnson, the 2015 champion, had grabbed the clubhouse lead at six-under 136 following a round of 67, while England’s Tommy Fleetwood moved into contention with the best round of the tournament so far, a six-under par 65 taking him to a five-under par total.

Also making sure they remain a factor were 2014 champion Rory McIlroy (69, 4-under) and 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods (second round of par 71).

The other Indian in the field, Anirban Lahiri, who teed off later, was one-over for the day after nine holes.

Sharma, who started with a bogey after his ball got plugged in the greenside bunker, is the youngest Indian to make the cut in a Major.

“I was thinking I needed to make a par on the last. But I’m definitely happy I made the birdie,” said the world No 87, who has played all three Majors in what has been a sensational breakthrough year for him.

“My first aim was to hit the fairway on the 18th, then put it on the green and give myself a birdie opportunity. I hit a brilliant second shot from that lie to five, six feet. I’m really proud of myself with the way I fought after the 13th hole today.”

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Not only were the conditions tough, they were also alien for Sharma, who played his first tournament on a links course only a fortnight ago at the Irish Open.

“After nine, I was at 5-over. I didn’t know where the cut was going to be at. First nine was very tough for us. It was raining. It was windy. I was just changing towels and changing my gloves. It was something I’m not used to that much. I’ve never played in rain and wind and being this cold,” explained the Chandigarh-based pro.

“When I started the back nine, I just told myself I’ll hit good shots now. I think I found something on the ninth hole when I was putting. Even though I missed the putt, I felt really comfortable with it and after that, I putted really well. I just saw the line.”

At one point, he was interrupted twice by a phone going off in the middle of his golf swing. But the youngster showed great patience and even joked with the crowd, asking if the gentleman’s morning alarm was finally going off.

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Despite his calm demeanour, he confessed to nerves.

“You know, I was trying to be as comfortable as possible. I was trying to be as free as possible on the course, but inside I was nervous. It wasn’t easy out there. Every shot was a struggle.

“You just try and keep reminding yourself that it is almost like you’re playing a normal tournament back home. You have to just keep it that simple. If you let the pressure of a Major get to you, you will mess it up.

“So, I was just trying to be as calm as possible, just trying to have as much fun as possible, and really happy that I finished well.”

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