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Shubhankar Sharma co-leads at Indian Open after Round 3

Sharma is now in line to become the 10th Indian to win his National Open.

SNS | Gurugram |

Shubhankar Sharma has shattered many a record since his first international win in South Africa late last year. The 21-year-old ranked no. 66 in the world, who ended round three of the Hero Indian Open 2018 in the joint lead, is now poised to become the first Indian to win three European Tour titles in one season.

Shubhankar came up with a valiant even-par-72 on day three at this home course, the DLF Golf & Country Club, to move up one spot from his overnight second and take a share of the lead at seven-under-209 along with Englishman Matt Wallace (70).

Scotsman Stephen Gallacher (67) was one shot behind in third place.

Shubhankar Sharma (73-64-72), the European Tour Race to Dubai leader with victories in South Africa and Malaysia this season, had a slow start to the day as he was one-over through six holes. But the Chandigarh-resident, the highest-ranked Indian in the world, upped the ante with three birdies over the next four holes thanks to some brilliant wedge shots and a booming drive on the 10th.

Shubhankar then hit rough weather after finding the hazard on the 11th that led to a bogey. However, he kept it tight with some consistent putting thereafter, making pars till the 16th. Sharma found the hazard once again on the 17th to drop a double-bogey but pulled it back with a birdie on the last that came as a result of his outstanding drive and a top-class chip-putt.

Sharma is now in line to become the 10th Indian to win his National Open. If he wins, it would be the fourth time in a row that an Indian would have won the Indian Open following the success of Anirban Lahiri in 2015 and SSP Chawrasia in 2016 and 2017.

Shubhankar said, “It was very windy today. The first two days were surprisingly calm. The course played really tough and I’m very happy with a 72. It was a mixed bag as everything happened. I holed out at the second, made a few good birdies and got a bad bounce on the 17th. I’m very pleased with the birdie at the last, which allowed me to grab a share of the lead. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

“At the second hole, where I holed out, I had a bad lie in the bunker. It was downslope and I didn’t want to duff it, as I’ll have no chance of an up-and-down if that happened. I caught it just on the ball which went over. The ball just came out three yards in front and it went to the centre of the cup.  At the fifth hole, as soon as I hit it, I knew I had a birdie chance.

“I kept telling my caddie that this is our home course. You can’t overpower this course. So, I told myself, just hang in there. I will hit a few bad shots and I understand that it’s all part of the game. You just have to stay patient.

“I was one-under-par after nine holes, which was crucial. I’m happy to be able to come back with birdies on seven and eight. The birdie on 10thwas fantastic as the hole was played off the back tees. I have always played the 10th from the front tee box.

“I made a few bad swings coming in, got a bad bounce on the 17th, but other than that, I think I played pretty solidly.

“I smashed my driver on the 18th. I’m happy that I had a short club in. It was a pretty easy chip from the greenside. Even though I didn’t hit the chip perfect, the ball still rolled next to the pin and I’m happy to make that putt.

“I’m just looking forward to playing out there again. I just want to have fun. It’s the second week in the row I’m in the leading group. I’m going to draw from my experiences last week. I know it’s going to be a battle out there tomorrow and I’ll be ready for it.”

On a day that saw only nine sub-par rounds, the seven other Indians who made the cut didn’t fare too well.

Ajeetesh Sandhu (74) was the next best Indian after Shubhankar as he occupied tied 26th at two-over-218. Jyoti Randhawa (76) and Anirban Lahiri (75) were both in tied 32nd at four-over-220.

Khalin Joshi was tied 37th at five-over-221, amateur Kshitij Naveed Kaul and Karandeep Kochhar were both in tied 48th at seven-over-223 while Udayan Mane was placed tied 56th at 10-over-226.