Shubhankar Sharma sunk a 45-foot birdie on the final hole to savour a career-best round of 68 at the Majors, putting him in sight of a top-50 finish at the Open Championships at Portrush.
Making his 23rd birthday memorable, Sharma hit six birdies, three of them on last six holes, including the dangerous 16th, also called ‘Calamity’. Sharma carded 70, 72, 77 and 68 for a total of three-over 287. He was T-52 but he could well finish better than last year’s T-51, if the weather worsens, as expected.
“I am not used to doing much on my birthdays but the last two birthdays have been at The Open and they have been very special. I was in a restaurant last year and everyone there just stood up and sang happy birthday for me. And today, I couldn’t have asked for a better finish,” said the Indian.
“It was quite special as the crowd, which was great through the week, sang that [birthday song] and I must admit it felt good. Hope I gave them something back with that birdie on 18th,” said Sharma.
“It was easily the best round of the week, and but for those six holes at the start of the back nine on Saturday, I think I played very well.”
On being asked what his mindset was after the 77 on Saturday, “I was just trying to erase the memories from yesterday. There was nothing wrong with the game. It was just my mind, which had gone off yesterday in the back nine and I just couldn’t see a starting line off the tee. You can’t afford to do that especially on this back nine. It’s not easy. It’s very penal. I knew there was nothing wrong. It was just a mental thing.”
The stretch of six holes, between 11th and 15th cost Sharma seven shots - three doubles, two bogeys against one birdie. As for the final round, he said, “There was no expectation to be honest. I was happy going out early because the weather seems to be getting pretty bad now. I just wanted to post a decent score, and I think I did that.”
The leaders were yet to start on a day, when rains were expected to and tee times were brought forward.
Shane Lowry, starting the day four clear of his nearest rival Tommy Fleetwood, bogeyed the first to fall to 15-under. But egged on by fans, Lowry birdied the fourth and fifth to get to 17-under to stretch his overnight lead from four to five shots.
Fleetwood, meanwhile, missed birdies on first two holes by a whisker and then bogeyed third only to make amends with a birdie on fifth. Yet he stayed at overnight 12-under.
Lee Westwood, starting at eight-under, bogeyed the first, but birdies on second, third and fifth brought him to 10-under. Rickie Fowler, who double bogeyed the first, made up and was nine-under as was Danny Willett.
JB Holmes starting at 10-under double bogeyed first and bogeyed fourth to fall to seven-under with Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka.