Shubhankar Sharma races into contention for Indian Open title

Saul Bowman
March 12, 2018

Argentine golfer Emiliano Grillo carded seven-under 65 to take the lead, while Ajjetesh Sandhu turned out to be India's best with a 68 to be tied seventh in the opening round of the $1.75 million Hero Indian Open here on Thursday.

But with adrenaline pumping through his body, the in-form Spaniard rolled home nine birdies along with two bogeys and a double to shoot 67.

Three birdies in the final four holes, including on the 17th and 18th, put the exclamation point on a spectacular day on Sharma's home course."I was hitting my approach shots close to the hole on nearly every hole, and giving myself good birdie opportunities".

That clicked something inside Sharma and he proceeded to take the rest of the Gary Player-designed layout apart for a back nine of 6-under par 30.

It is up there within top 5, I have played many times here during practice and I am happy that I didn't make many mistakes today, said Shubhankar, whose exploits at the World Golf Championship-Mexico where he finished tied 9th finish earned him a chance to play at the Masters in April. "This is a tough course and it is not easy to go low here". "I had to play nearly flawless golf to shoot a seven under".

These two guys have shown that if the conditions are good, as they were without any wind on the first two days, low scores were there to be had.

"If you told me I would be seven-under-par going into the weekend after being five-over-par on my opening nine holes yesterday, I would just have laughed. I knew I had momentum on my side and was playing well", Sharma said. After going out in 41, he shot 32 on his second nine to keep himself in the tournament.

"I knew I needed a birdie to break the course record and wanted it badly", he said after putting his autograph on a cap for a young fan. "To hold the record on my home course would mean a lot to me and that was why I made a decision to go for the green [on the par-five 18th]". He was available at just a shade under [6.0] after he'd birdied the 18th but he's moved a point since and I can see him shortening up fractionally still.

"I nearly had to play flawless golf out there". I'm going to wait and see what today brings but I have had a small top-up on Henrik Stenson at [100.0]. "I know I'm playing well and I have nothing to lose", he said.

Johnston returned an impressive 66 which included three straight birdies from the second and two gains over the last three holes which lifted him to six under alongside Larrazabal, who carded a 71.

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