13 October 2018: Shubhankar Sharma of India produced a gutsy six-under-par 66 to share the third round lead on Saturday, and put himself in prime position to become the first Asian to win the US$7 million CIMB Classic.
The 22-year-old produced some solid golf as he shared top spot with two-time CIMB Classic runner-up Gary Woodland, who missed his eagle on the last for a 67, and Australia’s Marc Leishman (67) on 19-under-par 197s.
Major champion and 2012 Malaysian Open winner Louis Oosthuizen registered a sparkling 65 to lie two shots back with round one leader Bronson Burgoon, who shot a 67 at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Sharma, the current Asian Tour number one, was fast off the blocks when he birdied holes two, three, five and seven before trading three birdies and one bogey on his homeward nine.
The Indian will enter the final 18 holes with high confidence in the country where he won his second Asian Tour title in February. This will be the second time in 2018 Sharma is in contention for a PGA TOUR title. He led by two shots heading into the final round of the WGC- Mexico Champion before settling for tied ninth.
“I would say it was a great scoring round, feeling I can still hit it better. Maybe yesterday was a better ball striking round compared to today, but on this golf course you have to really get into that zone and I’ve been able to do that for the past three days and that’s why I’ve been scoring really well. But I still feel like there are a few changes I can make and come back strong tomorrow,” said Sharma.
“Good thing is that I’ve been in this position before and I’m in it again. But the good thing also is that we’re in Asia and I’m going to get a lot of support from all the fans. I know what to do and what not to do, so I’ll just try and relax as much as possible and come back tomorrow strong.
“Asia is our home and it’s always good when you’re playing well in front of home crowd. It was evident today I got a lot of support from people who came out and also on the 18th when I got a good ovation. So I’m really happy that I’m back and I’ll give it my best tomorrow.”
Woodland, a three-time PGA TOUR winner, is determined to shed his bridesmaid tag at the CIMB Classic after trading six birdies and one bogey. He finished second in the 2013 and 2014 tournaments.
“I didn’t make as many putts as I did yesterday, but drove the ball well. Kind of got a little loose there a little bit on the back nine, maybe ran out of gas a little, but it was nice to finish up with a birdie and nice to get some momentum going into tomorrow,” said Woodland.
“I love this golf course, I love coming here, the people are great, food’s great, the golf course is phenomenal. They’ve done a phenomenal job with the redo. It’s in as good of shape as I’ve ever seen. Sets up for a great day tomorrow and hopefully we can go out and have a good round, see what happens.
“You’re going to have to make birdies. The golf course is in great shape, the weather’s been perfect, so if that all stays the same, we’re going to have to go out and be aggressive and make some birdies.”
Leishman opened with a birdie, birdie, eagle before adding three more birdies in his first 10 holes. He slipped back when he bogeyed holes 11 and 13 to enter the final round tied at the top of the leaderboard.
“Putter cooled down a little bit there on the back nine, but happy with the way I’m hitting it. Still feeling good over the ball, so looking forward to tomorrow and having a good round,” said Leishman.
“I think we’re all playing well. Whoever ends up winning tomorrow, whether in my group or not, is going to exciting. Hopefully, it’s me, but we’ll have to do something good tomorrow.”
Did you know?
- This is Shubhankar Sharma’s first appearance at the CIMB Classic. He will be aiming to become only the second Indian player to win on the PGA TOUR after Arjun Atwal won the 2010 Wyndham Championship.
- The last and only Asian to lead/co-lead heading into the final round of the CIMB Classic was Anirban Lahiri. He led by four shots before finishing in a share of tied third place.
- After 54 holes, Sharma has only dropped four shots while shooting 23 birdies.
- He only found 13 greens-in-regulation and fairways but took advantage of a hot putter where he totalled 25 putts, the lowest in three days.
- Sharma has won two tournaments over the past 12 months, the Joburg Open in South Africa in December and another tournament in Malaysia in February, events sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
- He currently leads the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings.
- The best Asian finisher at the CIMB Classic was Hideki Matsuyama in 2016 where he finished in second place. Lahiri and Kiradech were tied third in 2016 and 2013 respectively.
- Gary Woodland is looking to convert the 54-hole lead/co-lead for the first time in his career and in search of his second victory in less than a year after winning the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open in February.
- He is the runner-up at the CIMB Classic in 2013 and 2014. He also tied the course record at TPC Kuala Lumpur’s West course with his 11-under 61 in the second round, matching Justin Thomas’ second round score in 2015. The 11-under-par 61 was a career low on the PGA TOUR.
- He played the first 49 holes of the CIMB Classic without a bogey before a bogey on the 14th hole in the third round.
- Leishman opened his third round with birdie-birdie-eagle start and was seven-under after 10 holes but played the last eight holes in two-over for a 67.
- This is his sixth appearance at the CIMB Classic. His best finish was fifth place at the 2016 tournament.
Asian Tour Release