20 October 2018: You cannot keep Shubhankar Sharma down for long. The Nine Bridges course had him pinned to the grass through the first two days, but the 22-year-old bounced back in typical style on Saturday. Sharma scored a blistering eight under 64 to gain 45 spots to T26 on the leaderboard. Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka announced his intentions to take the top ranking by taking firm control of the lead.
The reigning US Open and PGA Championship king is ahead by four strokes over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy. Koepka shot 67 in the third round to reach Sunday at 13-under 203. Shubhankar is exactly ten behind the leader at 3-under 213.
With Justin Thomas down in T43 after a 72 in the third round, Koepka needs just a decent Sunday to secure the top ranking.
Rafa Cabrera Bello shot a 65 to move into T3 with Cameron Smith, Jamie Lovemark, Pat Perez, Gary Woodland and Chez Reavie. Ted Potter Jr. and Jason Day also struck 65s to end the day at 7-under with Ryan Armour.
Shubhankar had muddled through the first two rounds – taking in scores of 74 and 75 on his sorry card. On Saturday, he soared up the order with a brilliant run of birdies that saw him climb up the order at neck breaking speeds.
The Indian needed just 30 strokes on the forward nine, after starting with an even four on the tenth hole. Shubhankar scored four birdies in a row from the 11th, signalling his intentions to end his stay in the bottom order dungeons.
Shubhankar added birdies at the 17th and 18th to make the turn at six under for the day. That was enough to move him under par for only the second time this week.
“Really happy with the way I played today. I knew before starting that I had to go low to have any chance going into the weekend. Even for a good finish I had to go low today. I just had a good start today, that was the most important thing for me today and I did that, I had four birdies in the first five,” said Shubhankar. “That’s always good when you’re 4 under after five. Then I made two more on the 17th and the 18th to go out in 6 under. I actually had a great start. Made two three?putts on the front nine, but still pretty happy with the 8 under.
“I think everything just kind of turned around for me. Today I was in a better zone today compared to the first two days, I didn’t get agitated with myself. Still hit a few bad shots, but I was very, very calm on the course and I think that’s what kept me going.”
A bogey at the tenth served to provide a brief punctuation to his matador-like run. Shubhankar picked up the pace again with birdies at the 2nd and 5th holes. A ninth birdie came at the par-4 8th hole before he signed off with an even five at his final hole, the ninth.
“I think I have to shoot another one tomorrow to have a chance of probably securing top?10, but no pressure,” explained Shubhankar as he looked ahead to Sunday. “I’m playing well, I’m pretty happy with the way I played today and that’s all always a good thing.”