Shubhankar Sharma produces a superb 68 to start the Open on a high note

Shubhankar Sharma was T7 at the end of the opening round. He made two birdies on either side for a steady 68 that left him two behind Christo Lamprecht, Tommy Fleetwood and Emiliano Grillo

Shubhankar Sharma

Hoylake, 21 July 2023: On Tuesday this week, Shubhankar Sharma, already a day into his Open preparations assured us that he was feeling a good vibe. His family – mother, sister and father – and coach were in town for the Open. Shubhankar suggested that their presence helped him relax, and the game was feeling in good shape. True to his admission, the ace Indian golfer produced one of his finest rounds of big stage golf, for a three-under 68. At the end of the opening round, Shubhankar walked to the 18th to see his name up on the front page of the leaderboard, promptly two-putting for a solid finish to the day.

He began with a steady stream of pars, before taking it up a notch, with a pair of consecutive birdies. The seventh turned out to be the sole aberration when he missed from four feet for par. But he put that aside quickly, especially making a brilliant par save at the tenth.

But he saved his best for toward the end of the round. Shubhankar tried to draw, but the ball flew straight, sliding right into the rough off the 16th tee. He laid up with his second shot, leaving himself about 80 yards to the pin. Shubhankar produced some magic with the sand wedge on his third shot, putting enough spin on the ball to drag it bag from behind the pin, for a short par putt.

“I am very happy with the round, everything worked really well,” he said. “I would not say anything specific there was a nine or ten, but every part of my game was an eight or better. I will take that, just cannot complain. I am very happy with the round and three-under is great to start the Open.”

On a tough day for golf, the key to Shubhankar’s success was his course management and patience. And he was clued into the routine very early in his round.

“I think right from the first hole right after I hit that tee shot. I hit a very good tee shot, and then iron play was really good. I was seeing good windows, my speeds were good, and at the start I wasn’t really thinking about anything. It was just play shot by shot.

“The front nine had some good holes, so getting off to a good start is key. The back nine has some scoring holes, but it’s a strong course all in all. It’s not easy to just go out and blast it. You can’t really think like that.”

In his sixth major appearance, Shubhankar has three missed cuts but has also finished T51 in both the Open Championship entries in 2018 and 2019. This time, he could be looking at a great opportunity to continue playing himself into contention through the weekend. An early start on Friday, should also help Shubhankar, before the winds start picking up later in the day.