Playing His Best Links Golf, Shubhankar Sharma Lies Fourth At Halfway Mark At The Open

Playing his best golf at the oldest of all Majors and in typically English conditions, India’s Shubhankar Shama held his own in the company of the best golfers in the world, carding an even par 71 to share the fourth place at the Open. The Indian, who turned 27 on Friday, but put off all celebrations till the end of the week to focus on the final Major of 2023, holed a birdie on the 18th to take his total to three-under after the third round.

The day’s runaway leader was American Brian Harman, who confessed hunting was his hobby and he hunted birdies like no one else, adding an eagle at the end for a six-under 65.

Harman with 67-65 moved to 10-under and opened a five-shot lead over Tommy Fleetwood, a Southport native, who added a hard-fought 71 to his first round 66 to be five-under.

Sepp Straka, a man in form with two PGA TOUR win, the second of which was earlier this month at the John Deere Classic, blasted six birdies and a bogey in last seven holes and rose to sole third.

Straka, the first Austrian winner on PGA TOUR, is one ahead of Sharma (68-71) and the Australian duo of Min Woo Lee (71-68) and former World No. 1 Jason Day (72-67), all at three-under total.

Four others, including three-time Major winner and former Open champion Jordan Spieth are lurking in the Tied-seventh place at 2-under total.

Day and Spieth are the only players in the Top-10 to have won a Major.

When Sharma finished his second round, he was in Top-five and he stayed there till the end of the second round, at which point he was Tied-fourth.

The best Indian finish at a Major is Tied-fifth by Anirban Lahiri at the 2015 PGA Championship. The only other time an Indian finished in Top-10 in a Major was Jeev Milkha Singh at the 2008 PGA Championship, when he was T-9.

No Indian has finished in Top-20 at the Open.

Sharma, pushing thoughts of a birthday celebrations despite the presence of his two childhood friends here, played a round that was full of grit and determination for an even par 71.

Sharma, who confessed that one of his ambitions was to see his name on the iconic Open leaderboard, had three birdies against one bogey and a double bogey on Par-3 17th.

His father, Col ML Sharma, who is here with the full family – including Sharma’s sister and mother, said that he had taken a picture, which his son will treasure for the rest of his life.

On a course, which every player including Rory McIlroy has described as tough and where wind has played a big role so far, Sharma stayed steady.

He birdied the seventh, bogeyed the eighth, birdied 15th and dropped a double on 17th, where he overshot the green and had a bad lie. He quickly shrugged aside the disappointment and birdied the 18th, always a tough one.

“It wasn’t easy. It was up and down. Downwind the ball was being affected almost 20, 25 yards, and into the wind, the same,” Sharma said.

Yet Sharma said he was happy with the day.

“Very happy. In fact, I was seeing the scores, and when I teed off the first two, three holes, I saw the wind was definitely a lot more than what we played yesterday. I told myself a level par round would not be a bad round today.” And what about his birthday celebrations? “Nothing. Mom will cook. Mom will make rajma and make she’ll take cakes. A few of my friends are here, as well, so we’ll just chitchat. They came together, so it’ll be good fun. There’s some work to be done, but then after that we’ll chill,” Sharma said.

Leader Harman played in slightly better conditions in the morning and shot six-under with four birdies in a row from second and then closed with an eagle.

The 36-year-old Harman, who played his first Open at this very venue in 2014, said, “Yeah, I’ve had a hot putter the last couple days so try to ride it through the weekend. 36 holes to go, so try to rest up and get ready.” Harman said he was playing well, but didn’t want to get ahead.

“Yeah. I have a very active mind. It’s hard for me — I’ve always struggled with trying to predict the future and trying to forecast what’s going to happen. I’ve just tried to get really comfortable just not knowing.” Rory McIlroy (71-70) was one-under for 36 holes and T-13 after improving 19 places from his first round.

Defending champion Cameron Smith, who needed a birdie on the 18th to make the cut, did even better with an eagle and was two-over for two rounds.

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