Shubhankar Sharma sparkles with a 70, Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry jostle for the lead

As Shane Lowry (67) presided over a busy leaderboard, Jon Rahm and J.B. Holmes battled hard for a piece of the pie. Shubhankar Sharma played one of the finest rounds of his young career to shoot a spotless 70

178
Shubhankar Sharma at The 148th Open

Portrush, 18 July 2019: The Open Championship has a special place in the heart for Shubhankar Sharma. The Indian golfer made his first and only cut at a major event at the Open last year. He worked his way back from the brink to earn a weekend date, clinging to a thread before climbing back. The Open also happens to be his only major appearance this season, after struggling to emulate his own blockbuster season last year.

Hero - The Open Banner - 2019
Hero – The Open Banner – 2019

Shubhankar was surprised to see he was paired with four-time major champion Brooks Koepka and the 2010 Champion Golfer Louis Oosthuizen for the first two rounds and committed himself to a positive effort in their elite company.

After a some good quality golf at Lahinch and then at the Renaissance Club last week, Shubhankar wasn’t lacking in confidence. After going bogey-free on Thursday, in a stellar one-under 70, he has reason to believe that he can build on it and contend this weekend.

His only birdie of the day came at the par-3 13th hole, but he can take great joy from posting yet another brilliant round of golf.

“I am very happy with the way I played,” said a content Shubhankar. “It is pretty nice to come out bogey free. We had a plan and I tried to just stick to it.”

“The front nine could have been a tad better in terms of putting, but I also made some tough par putts on the return stretch. So that worked out just fine.”

“I enjoyed playing with Brooks Koepka,” added Shubhankar. “It is interesting to watch him play. He is so decisive on the course. He speaks a bit with his caddie, sees the shot and executes it so well. It has been a long time since we played together, and a lot has changed in the last six years. I enjoyed the experience of playing with him again.”

The Indian made 78.57% of fairways and reached 66.67% of the greens in regulation. He would have liked to have been better on that second number and if he could also take less than the 29 putts he needed on Thursday, a big move up the order is certainly not beyond Shubhankar.

At the front of the pack, Shane Lowry swung into the lead with a disciplined 67 containing five birdies and a lone bogey at the 11th hole. Some big names chased him in the afternoon, but only Jon Rahm managed to make a dent on him. The Spaniard is ahead by one, with five to play.

J. B. Holmes was tied with Lowry with two more holes to play.

Alex Noren, Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia, Dylan Frittelli, Robert MacIntyre, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Ryan Fox, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau are all lying in T4 at 3-under 68.