Portrush, 20 July 2019: It is common even for the best speakers to forget their lines. But then they have nicely laid teleprompter screens to help them keep the flow despite the lapse. Sport does not offer such luxuries. Shubhankar Sharma paid a heavy price today for losing his swing midway through a strong round, stumbling to a 77 that put paid to any hopes of a rousing finish in the final major of the season.
The Indian made a fine start as he looked to build on an even start to the day. A birdie at the second suggested that it might be a pleasant day on the course under good conditions. But then the tee shot at the fifth sailed right into the rough. The spotter raised his arm to confirm checking the ball, but when Shubhankar reached there, the ball was nowhere to be seen.
“I hit it slightly right but was fully expecting to find the ball. When we could not trace, it did rile me a bit but I tried to move forward after making the double bogey,” said a disappointed Shubhankar.
That rattled Shubhankar but he gathered his wits to make three straight pars and a birdie at the 9th to make the turn in 36 strokes.
As they reached the 10th tee, Shubhankar suffered a midround struggle that is not very uncommon for golfers. He was struggling to feel the rhythm of his familiar swing. The rough at the 10th made it hard for Shubhankar and he worked his way to a double-bogey again.
Another wayward drive followed at the eleventh as he continued to struggle with his routine. The third double bogey drove the dents deeper. Shubhankar deserved credit for sticking to the task at hand, squeezing out a birdie at the par-5 12th hole. He made birdies at two of the three par-5s today, which was a good sign for him heading into the final round on Sunday.
But the anarchy on his card wasn’t at an end. He drove left at the 15th and despite a frantic search around the mounds of rough, the ball was nowhere to be found. The provisional was flush in the middle of the fairway, but his approach from there left him far too much ground to cover. Shubhankar made a two-putt double bogey, four sixes that cost him eight shots.
Once again Shubhankar did well to keep his poise and march on. At the dangerous 16th hole, Shubhankar made a brilliant putt, curling left to right to secure par.
At the final hole, Shubhankar, finally reunited with his well practised swing struck a perfect tee shot to the middle of the fairway. A good iron shot from there left him with about twelve feet for birdie and he made it for a smooth finish to an otherwise troubled round.
Shubhankar refused to blame the wind or the spotters for the damage on his card. “I was striking it good on the front nine. What happened on the fifth was unfortunate, but it was still a good stretch of golf,” he assured us. “It was my poor driving on the back nine that cost us today. I will go back and work on a few things after lunch and hope to finish with a good round on Sunday.”
“I just want to get back to where my game should be and finish off strongly. It was a bad day in the office today and hopefully, tomorrow will be better. I’m happy to still be playing on a Sunday,” he added.
At the time of this report, Lee Westwood had made three straight birdies to move to 10-under with J. B. Holmes who is 10-under through three holes, in the group behind Westwood.