Portrush, 21 July 2019: On his 22nd birthday, dressed in the gold of the Open Championship, Shubhankar Sharma produced his best round yet at a major tournament for a memorable final round effort at the 148th Open Championship. The Indian made a bright 68 in the company of his good friend Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who also played some brilliant golf for his 67.
After a disappointing stretch on the third evening spoilt an otherwise promising Open Championship for Shubhankar, he needed to change gears and return to play his best game.
A bogey at the first hole was an ominous start. Shubhankar was in the middle of the fairway, but his approach was way left and had to work his way back to the green. A two-putt meant that he started the day with a bogey.
At the par-5 second, Shubhankar drove a 3-wood to the green. Even though he missed a long eagle putt, the birdie helped erase the early loss. He added another birdie at the third to go one-under for the round. He also collected a birdie at the 8th to make the turn in 34 strokes.
At the 13th, Shubhankar launched his 8-iron to about 20 feet and made the putt for the fourth birdie of his round. Though he conceded bogeys at the 14th and 16th, he punctuated it with a good birdie on the 15th to keep the momentum from slipping away.
The 16th tee shot was a good one, but it caught the wind and rolled into the swale on the left of the green. Shubhankar played a brilliant chip shot to within three feet from the cup, but missed his putt to concede the bogey. Meanwhile, Kiradech played his best shot of the day off the 16th tee. He flew it flat and straight and the ball never left the flag. He made no mistake with the four footer to secure his fourth birdie on the day.
Shubhankar sailed slightly right on the 18th. But he navigated a decent approach from the rough to get on the green in two. As he marched up the fairway and on to the green, the stewards orchestrated a nice birthday song for the young golfer. He paid back in kind with a blistering birdie from 45 feet to round off another good week at the Open.
“I am really happy with the way I played today. Especially that finish at the 18th was pretty special. The galleries sang for me on my birthday and I made a 45 footer for birdie,” said a delighted Shubhankar.
“I am very happy to have comeback strong from the back nine on Saturday. It was a good tournament for me. I did not putt as well as I may have wanted, but today was good. This has been a very special week nonetheless and the finish at the 18 just iced the cake for me.”
Kiradech also made an eagle on the second, besides five birdies to bring the curtains down on a resilient week when he has walking this difficult terrain with a dodgy knee. His 67 moved him to one-over for the week to finish in T46.
Shubhankar ended the week at 3-over 287, good enough for a finish that will hurt far less than the ending on Saturday when he slipped on the back nine to pick up a 77 on his card.
The Indian finished his Open duties well before lunch time, more than two hours before the scheduled tee time of the leading group. Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood will battle it out from 16-under and 12-under looking to win the first major of their careers.