Johannesburg, South Africa, 09 Dec 2017

Shubhankar sizzles with a 65 to take commanding five-shot lead at Joburg Open, now in line for maiden international win and berth at The Open in 2018

On the cusp of becoming youngest Indian to win on the European Tour

Shubhankar Sharma of India continued his blistering form by shooting a third round seven-under-par 65 to take a five-shot lead at the Joburg Open on Saturday.

The 21-year-old birdied four in a row from the second hole before adding three birdies to surge to the top of the leaderboard on a 20-under-par 195 total at the R16.5 million (approximately US$1.2 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour, Sunshine Tour and European Tour.

After shooting a second round 61, the talented Sharma maintained his hot streak to put himself in prime position to secure a first Asian Tour victory at the Randpark Golf Club, Firethorn course.

Sharma holds a fairly dominant lead over his closest challenger Christofer Blomstrand of Sweden, who registered a sparkling 62 on Saturday.

The talented Indian will enter the final 18 holes as the leader for the first time in his career as he set his sights on the Joburg Open title and one of the three tickets available to The Open in 2018.

Sharma played solidly from tee-to-green and was rarely in trouble except on the par-four 18th hole when his approach shot landed in the greenside bunker. He stayed bogey-free when he superbly hit it out of the sand trap for a close range par putt.

Sharma has been bogey-free in his last 36 holes. He made three bogeys in the opening round but since then, he has kept a clean card. His 20-under-par total is the second lowest on the Asian Tour this year, one shot shy of Pat Perez’s three day effort at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in October.

The Indian is playing just his tenth European Tour event but has made nine cuts and enjoyed a top ten at the UBS Hong Kong Open two weeks ago. He is now on the cusp of becoming the youngest Indian to win on the European Tour. Anirban Lahiri currently holds the record for being the youngest as he won the Maybank Malaysian Open 2015 at the age of 27. He could also be the first from his country to register a win in the African continent.

Shubhankar said, “I’m really happy. I wanted to play even though I shot a 10-under yesterday and it is always difficult to follow up on a low round. I’m really proud with the way I played today.

“The way I read the lines on the greens was pretty good. I got off to a fast start and that’s very important if you want to go low. My putting has been really good and I hope it continues.

“I made birdie on hole two with a good up-and-down from the left rough. On the third, I hit a really good approach shot which spun to about five or six feet. On the par-five fourth hole, I hit two solid shots and almost made the eagle putt. On the par-three fifth hole, I hit a six-iron to four feet.

“The wind kept swirling. The direction switched a few times in the round. You got to be really committed before you hit the shot.

“I’m very pleased that I came to the Joburg Open. I had my visa but it has been a very long season so I was contemplating if I wanted to come here. I’m really happy that I did!

“I want to stay within myself and play against my course. I have a good lead but you saw some low scores today. Anyone can shoot a seven or eight-under-par. I need to stay calm and hit the right shots.

“I don’t want to change my strategy because I’ve played solid golf. There’s nothing much to change. You can’t play it safe because everything is in front of you. I’m going to be aggressive and won’t hit any stupid shots,” added Sharma, whose five-shot lead is the largest advantage after 54 holes on the Asian Tour in 2017.
Source: Asian Tour

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