Super Sharma impresses again in KL
Indian among front-runners; Woodland, Leishman retain position atop CIMB Classic leaderboard
>> KUALA LUMPUR: 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 US$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 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 199.
Stewart Cink, the 2009 British Open champion, shot the lowest round of the day, a nine-under-par 63, to move to tied seventh place at 15 under along with five others, while his American compatriot Austin Cook (68) was the lone man in sixth place at 200.
Playing in the leader group, world No.24 Leishman made the first move 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 for a 37.
Sharma was consistent in both halves. He saved crunch pars on the eighth hole, where he chipped in, and the par-four 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.
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 WGCMexico Championship earlier in the year before finishing tied ninth.
Leishman, who was six under for his last eight holes on Friday, moved to 10 under after 11 holes yesterday. 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, so hopefully I can be hot like I was in the first 10 holes today and see how we end up,” said Leishman.
Woodland, 34, used his massive power to reach the green in two on the long par-five 18th and made a closing birdie to join Leishman and Sharma.
“I played very well today... got a little loose on the back nine, maybe ran out of gas a little, but it was nice to finish with a birdie and keep the momentum going into tomorrow,” said the two-time CIMB Classic runner-up.
Former world No.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.
Shubhankar Sharma watches his tee shot during the third round of the CIMB Classic.