New Straits Times


Indian stays on track in bid to become the youngest player to win a WGC event


INDIA’S Shubhankar Sharma survived some shaky moments to maintain his twoshot lead at the WGC Mexico Championsh­ip after the third round on Saturday.

Sharma, the 21-year-old Asian Tour Order of Merit leader whose European Tour wins this season at Johannesbu­rg and the Maybank Championsh­ip have propelled him to number 75 in the world, is making his first start in an elite World Golf Championsh­ips event.

He’s vying to break into the top 50 in time to earn a Masters berth.

With a win on Sunday he would become the youngest player to win a WGC event, eclipsing the mark of Patrick Reed who won the 2014 WGC Mexico Championsh­ip at 23 years old.

“I don’t really want to think about it,” Sharma said.

“That would put too much pressure on me. I just want to go ahead and enjoy myself.”

Sharma hit 11 of 14 fairways — his highest total of the week — and 10 of 18 greens in regulation during his third round.

He had five birdies and three bogeys in his two-under par 69 at Club de Golf Chapultepe­c near Mexico City, where his 13under par total of 200 put him two clear of five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

World number one and defending champion Dustin Johnson headed a group on 203 that also included 2017 US PGA Tour rookie of the year Xander Schauffele, Pat Perez and Brian Harman.

Sharma, leading by two to start the day, made a quick start with three birdies in his first six holes. He bounced back from a bogey at the eighth with a birdie at 11, but surrendere­d a shot at 13.

He rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at 14 to reclaim sole possession of the lead, and he was two clear even after his bogey at 16.

He closed with a tremendous par save at the last, calmly rolling in a 15-foot putt to maintain his cushion as he tries to become the first player since Jim Benepe at the 1988 Western Open to win a first US PGA Tour title in his tour debut.

Sharma will tee off on Sunday alongside Hatton and Mickelson. Hatton carded a 64 to join the group sharing second while the 43-year-old Mickelson posted a bogey-free 65.

Mickelson, chasing his first title wince the 2013 British Open, arrived in Mexico buoyed by three straight top-10 finishes.

 ?? EPA PIC ?? Shubhankar Sharma in action during the third round of the WGC Mexico Championsh­ip on Saturday.
EPA PIC Shubhankar Sharma in action during the third round of the WGC Mexico Championsh­ip on Saturday.

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