12 October 2018: Shubhankar Sharma birdied his closing two holes for a sparkling eight-under-par 64 to trail the second round leaders Gary Woodland and Marc Leishman by one-shot at the CIMB Classic on Friday.
The Indian star rediscovered his form in the country where he won eight months ago as he registered nine birdies against a single blemish to end the day on 13-under-par 131 at the US$7 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA TOUR.
Sharma will enter the weekend rounds hot on the heels of Woodland, who equalled the course record of 61 today, and tie with Leishman, whose 62 placed him atop the leaderboard at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.
“Really happy, really pleased with the way I played. Had a lot of birdie opportunities and I converted most of them, so very happy,” said Shubhankar.
“I just feel like all the players playing at this level are at a very high level. On a course like this when they get going, they will go really low and I just feel like even I belong in that league. When I’m feeling it and I’m hitting it good, I pretty much go at every pin and I feel like I can make all the putts.”
“I would just say that I did get into a zone today, especially on that front nine, which is my back nine, I was pretty much going at all the pins. Just that one bad shot on the second, but other than that I was hitting it pretty good. So really happy with where I am right now and I just want to continue doing that for the next two days,” he added.
“Almost like I woke up after the front nine yesterday. I didn’t really have the best of starts, but the next 27 holes after that have been really good.
“My goal at the start of the week was to get into a good position going into the weekend and I’ve done that. I don’t think I could have played better than this. I wasn’t really in form before this event, I didn’t really have the best of weeks before this, but to come back strong, especially to have my coach here, we figured out a few things. So yeah, the weekend is important on a lot of fronts PGA TOUR, Asian Tour Order of Merit, so many things but I just want to keep it simple, just want to go out and play golf.”
Ryder Cup winner Paul Casey of England kept up his title charge after shooting a 65 to share third with Sharma while world number four Justin Thomas slipped to a share of 15th place following a 69.
Starting from the 10th, the 22-year-old Sharma turned in 33 before showcasing his impeccable form highlighted by a 30-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole. He rifled his nine-iron approach shot to two-feet on the last for an easy tap-in birdie to charge in contention.
Woodland will be hoping to be third time lucky after finishing second twice at the CIMB Classic in 2013 and 2014. The three-time PGA TOUR winner marked his card with 11 birdies to tie for the course record set by Thomas in 2015.
“The golf course is phenomenal, they did an unbelievable job, it’s in perfect shape. It’s nice to play the ball down this week. The golf course is great,” said Woodland.
“Today, I mean I just played solid just like I did yesterday, I just made more putts. Hit the ball in the fairway. I think I hit 17 greens, which obviously is a big deal, but I made some putts, too, which is nice.”
Leishman, who has also won three times on the PGA TOUR, was also bogey-free in a round of 10 birdies. His highlight of the day came when he holed four straight birdies from the second hole.
Did you know?
- Woodland lost in a Monday play-off in 2013 when he lost on the first extra hole to Ryan Moore.
- Ranked 38th in the world, he only missed one green-in-regulation and two fairways while totalling 26 putts.
- Woodland is regular at the CIMB Classic, as he has never missed a single edition since 2013.
- Leishman wielded a hot putter where he totalled 24 putts highlighted by seven one-putts from the 11th hole. He only had one three-putt on the 18th hole which he parred.
- He is bogey-free in his last 35 holes. His only bogey this week was on his opening first hole.
- This is the Australian’s seventh appearance at the CIMB Classic. His best result is fifth place last year.
- Sharma matched his second low round on the Asian Tour. He previously shot a 62 at the 2016 Manila Masters and closed with the same score when he won in Malaysia in February.
- This is his first appearance at the CIMB Classic and he is aiming to better countryman Lahiri’s best result of tied third place in the event in 2016.
- He totalled 26 putts in his round today and hit 15 greens-in-regulation and nine fairways. He has dropped three bogeys in 36 holes.
- Since finishing tied ninth at the WGC-Mexico Championship and tied seventh at the Hero Indian Open earlier this year, Sharma has not enjoyed the best results. He is beginning to find his form at the CIMB Classic.
- Sharma needs a good result this week as he aims to become the Asian Tour number one in 2018. With earnings of US$608,494, he leads by US$54,278 over Sanghyun Park of Korea.
130 – Gary Woodland (USA) 69-61, Marc Leishman (AUS) 68-62.
131 – Shubhankar Sharma (IND) 67-64, Paul Casey (ENG) 66-65.
132 – Austin Cook (USA) 64-68, Bronson Burgoon (USA) 63-69, Scott Piercy (USA) 65-67.
133 – Nick Watney (USA) 66-67, Kevin Chappell (USA) 66-67.
134 – J.B. Holmes (USA) 67-67, Joel Dahmen (USA) 66-68, Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 66-68, Billy Horschel (USA) 65-69, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 66-68.
135 – Kevin Na (USA) 68-67, Keith Mitchell (USA) 70-65, Chesson Hadley (USA) 67-68, Abraham Ancer (MEX) 67-68, Justin Thomas (USA) 66-69.
136 – Byeonghun An (KOR) 66-70, Charles Howell III (USA) 69-67.
Asian Tour Release