Shubhankar shoots 69 in opening spherical at Saudi International

Kaec (Saudi Arabia), February 4

India’s Shubhankar Sharma hung in to ensure an under par round as he carded a 1-under 69 on the first day of Saudi International at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club here on Thursday.

Starting from the 10th, he was 1-over through 12 and then birdies on 4th and 7th ensured he finished with a 69 and was lying tied 49.

David Horsey and Stephen Gallacher, whose last win came in India at the Hero Indian Open in 2018, were in superb form with rounds of 61 and 62 to lead the leaderboard. Horsey’s 9-under 61 gave him a one-shot clubhouse lead over Gallacher.

Summing up his round, Sharma said, “There was no momentum in the whole round. To be honest it could have been a lot lower had my irons been better on course. I didn’t hit too close and these greens aren’t easy to read.

“They are not as flat as last week and have a lot of slopes in them.

“I think I battled hard to finish minus one. Had to make an up-and-down on the last hole to make par to stay in red numbers so all in all I’m pretty pleased with the effort but you know as a player you’re always looking for some extra shots, and hopefully, that happens tomorrow.”     

On the last hole, Sharma landed in the rough and the ball went through the cart path and into the waste area.

“I was unlucky to catch a bad break and the ball was in a kind of a bowl. Got it onto the fairway to 90-95 yards and made up and down for par. I was pleased with that.”

“As I said, on this course you need momentum. I found that I could have made some more birdies on the back nine, especially in the morning when there wasn’t much wind. So it is something to work on in the afternoon, but at least I’m in the red numbers,” he concluded.

England’s Horsey carded nine birdies – seven of which came in a spectacular inward 28.

Two of Gallacher’s four European Tour titles have come in the Middle East but the Scot endured a difficult 2020 campaign as he finished 173rd in the Race to Dubai Rankings.

Bernd Wiesberger (64) was third and six players were tied for fourth, including Bryson DeChambeau (65).

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson was 3-under for the day in tied 19, as were in-form Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton.

Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Tony Finau were all 2-under and tied 31st. Shane Lowry and Sergio Garcia shot even par 70 and were tied 71st.

The event is being telecast live in India on 1Sports and presented by Hero MotoCorp. PTI

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