In­dia’s Sharma im­presses again at CIMB Clas­sic

‘I was happy that I could make a few birdies of my own in the first five holes’

Gulf Times Sport - - FRONT PAGE -

In­dia’s 22-year-old Shub­hankar Sharma once again served no­tice of his im­mense tal­ent with a round of six-un­der par 66 that tied him for the lead in the $7 mil­lion CIMB Clas­sic yes­ter­day.

Sharma, who burst onto the scene with wins in Joburg and May­bank Cham­pi­onship on the Eu­ro­pean Tour ear­lier in the sea­son, moved to 19-un­der par 197, catch­ing up with joint overnight lead­ers Gary Wood­land of the US and Aus­tralia’s Marc Leish­man, who both came in with 67 each.

The resur­gent South African Louis Oosthuizen (65), who has re­cently been plagued with back in­juries, and Bron­son Bur­goon (67) of the US, the sur­prise pack­age of the tour­na­ment, were tied for fourth place at 17-un­der par. Amer­i­can 2009 Open cham­pion Ste­wart Cink shot the low­est round of the day, a nine-un­der par 63, to move to tied sev­enth place at 15-un­der par along with five oth­ers, while his com­pa­triot Austin Cook (68) was the lone man in sixth place at 200.

Play­ing in the leader group, it was world num­ber 24 Leish­man who made the first move, start­ing with birdies on his first two holes and an ea­gle on the third. But af­ter mak­ing the turn in 30, he strug­gled on the back nine and came back in 37 shots.

Sharma was con­sis­tent on both halves. He saved crunch pars on the eighth hole, where he chipped in, and the par-4 12th, where he ex­tri­cated him­self from the third fair­way and made a gutsy up-and-down. But he gave him­self sev­eral birdie chances and con­verted seven of them. His only bo­gey came on the par-3 15th hole.

‘FOOT ON THE PEDAL’

Sharma, who is try­ing to be­come the first Asian cham­pion of the tour­na­ment, said three birdies in the first five holes and his par save on the eight were cru­cial.

“I think it’s al­ways im­por­tant to get off to a good start, es­pe­cially on this course where every­one’s just go­ing low. You have to have your foot on the pedal from the first hole and I was happy that I could make a few birdies of my own in the first five holes,” said Sharma, who led af­ter the sec­ond and third rounds of the WGC-Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship ear­lier in the year be­fore fin­ish­ing tied ninth.

Leish­man, who was six-un­der par for his last eight holes on Fri­day, moved to 10-un­der par for 11 holes af­ter three on Satur­day. And even though the back nine did not go as per plans, the three-time PGA Tour cham­pion was not giv­ing up his chances.

“(I’m) happy with the round – gave my­self a good chance to­mor­row, so hope­fully I can be hot like I was that first 10 holes to­day and see how we end up,” said Leish­man. Wood­land, 34, used his mas­sive strength to reach the green in two on the long par-5 18th and made a clos­ing birdie to join Leish­man and Sharma.

“I played very well to­day... Kind of got a lit­tle loose there on the back nine, maybe ran out of gas a lit­tle, but it was nice to fin­ish up with a birdie and nice to get some mo­men­tum go­ing into to­mor­row,” said the two-time CIMB Clas­sic run­ner-up.

For­mer world num­ber 1 and two-time cham­pion Justin Thomas shot a 69 and was seven shots be­hind the lead­ers at 12-un­der par. De­fend­ing cham­pion Pat Perez was tied 42nd at six-un­der par.

(AFP)

Shub­hankar Sharma chip­ping onto the green dur­ing the third round of the CIMB Clas­sic golf tour­na­ment at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.

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