Steady Shubhankar eyeing history

Steady Shubhankar eyeing history

Steady Shubhankar eyeing history

Shubhankar Sharma upstaged the biggest names in golf by bravely maintaining his overnight two-shot lead following the third round of the USD 10 million World Golf Championships here, venturing into a territory hitherto unknown to Indian golfers.

The 21-year-old became the first Indian to hold a 54-hole lead in a World Golf Championship, as he added a grinding two-under 69 to move to 13-under.

Shubhankar, with three birdies against one bogey on the front nine, was four shots clear at one stage. He later had two each of birdies and bogeys but made some great saves, including one on 18th.

He is two ahead of some of the biggest names in contemporary golf on a crowded leaderboard.

The top-10, after three rounds, are separated by four shots and they include four Major winners -- Phil Mickelson (65) and Sergio Garcia (69) at T-2, Dustin Johnson (68) at T-6 and at tied-10th is Justin Thomas, who was on fire with a record-breaking 9-under 62 at the Club de Golf Chapultepec.

The best position for an Indian at a WGC was Jeev Milkha Singh's tied-1st after the first round at WGC at Doral in 2009 and  in the same event, Jeev was T-9 after the second round, T-3 after three rounds and eventually finished T-4, the best-ever for an Indian.

The winner was Mickelson. Arjun Atwal, in 2010, carried a 3-shot lead into the final round of the Wyndham Championships, which he won by one shot, and more recently Anirban Lahiri carried a four-shot lead into the final round of the 2016 CIMB Classic, but dropped to tied-third at the end.

While Shubhankar at 21 years and seven months is the youngest in the field, Mickelson stands at the other end of the age spectrum at 41 years and eight months. It is not just Mickelson who is in hot pursuit, but a whole lot of others.

An overwhelmed Shubhankar said, "For me, it's actually almost like watching TV. I was telling Baaz, who's on my bag there, watching all of these guys on the range, it just seems like there's a TV in front of me and I'm watching them through the TV.

Keeping calm, a trait he picked from his father, Col M L Sharma, an Army man, who gave him all his time in the growing years, Shubhankar showed little emotion even while chatting with his caddie, Gurbaaz, on the course. But the 11-12 footer on the 18th for par did see him heave a sigh of relief and a fist pump.

"It was very important. Obviously Rafa had a birdie putt and could have been a two-shot swing. I think I got a bit unlucky on the second shot. Right before my shot we checked the wind and it was still."

In Mexico players have to adjust for the higher altitude which makes ball travel almost 15 percent more and then there is distance to be adjusted for uphill layout.

Shubhankar could potentially have a career-changing win with the winner's cheque worth USD 1.7 million, an exemption onto the PGA TOUR through the 2020-21 season, 550 FedExCup points and starts in almost every major championship including THE PLAYERS Championship this season.

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