Sharma in lead, eyes dream win

CIMB CLAS­SIC In­dian sen­sa­tion in three­way tie for top spot, chases maiden PGA ti­tle at the $7 mil­lion tour­na­ment

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - HTSPORTSMAX - Agen­cies sports­desk@hin­dus­tan­times.com

KUALALUMPUR: In­dia’s 22-year-old Shub­hankar Sharma 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 at the TPC Kuala Lumpur on Satur­day.

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.

Oosthuizen, the 2010 Bri­tish Open cham­pion, carded a sparkling 65 to move along­side firstround leader Bur­goon.

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.

Cink raced into con­tention head­ing into the fi­nal round with nine birdies, four shots off the pace.

But English­man Paul Casey, one-shot off the lead at the half­way stage, strug­gled on the back nine and dropped 10 places af­ter a one-un­der 71 to stand five shots be­hind the pace­set­ters.

LEISH­MAN STRUG­GLES AF­TER GOOD START

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, who is seek­ing his first PGA ti­tle, is look­ing to em­u­late Ar­jun At­wal, who is the only In­dian to have won a PGA ti­tle.

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.

SHUB­HANKAR’S ‘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.

“It is 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.

He led af­ter the sec­ond and third rounds of the Wgc-mex­ico Cham­pi­onship ear­lier in the year be­fore fin­ish­ing tied ninth.

“Good thing is that I’ve been in this po­si­tion be­fore so I know what hap­pens and what my mind goes through, so I’ll just try and re­lax my­self as much as pos­si­ble,” he said. “The way I’m play­ing, I’m pretty sure I’ll play well to­mor­row as well.”

BHULLAR, LAHIRI FADE

Among In­dia’s other play­ers in the fray, Ga­gan­jeet Bhullar (71) and Anir­ban Lahiri were way down the leader­board.

Bhullar had three birdies against two bo­geys to be 6-un­der 210 and was tied 42 while Anir­ban (68) was tied 64 af­ter a third round of 68. Lahiri was 2-un­der for the tour­na­ment. Rahil Gang­jee (73) was ly­ing 77th at 5-over.

Mean­while, 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 three­time PGA Tour cham­pion was not giv­ing up his chances.

“(I am) 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, reached the green in two on the long par-5 18th and made a clos­ing birdie to join Leish­man and Sharma at the top.

It’s im­por­tant to get off to a good start on this course where every­one’s just go­ing low. You’ve to have your foot on the pedal from the first hole I’m happy with the round — gave my­self a good chance so hope­fully I can be hot like I was that first 10 holes to­day and see how we end up

AFP

Shub­hankar Sharma is look­ing to em­u­late Ar­jun At­wal.

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