Sharma sets stage for grand finish

Shubhankar Sharma

Shubhankar Sharma

The 21-year-old Shubhankar (73-64-72-75), who came to the tournament with high expectations as the victor of two European Tour events in the last three months, slipped on the final day at his home course, the DLF Golf & Country Club, after struggling with his ball-striking.

The 21-year-old had made four birdies and three bogeys before dropping two shots on the 17th, but a birdie on the last put him back in the lead.

Shubhankar started the fourth round with two birdies through four holes.

The scores: 209: Matt Wallace (Eng) (69, 70, 70), Shubhankar Sharma (73, 64, 72); 210: Stephen Gallacher (Sco) (72, 71, 67), 211: Matthias Schwab (Aut) (71, 72, 68), Andrew Johnston (Eng) (72, 66, 73), Emiliano Grillo (Arg) (65, 68, 78); 212: Sihwan Kim (USA) (70, 70, 72), Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) (67, 71, 74).

Wallace beat compatriot Andrew Johnston in the first hole of their play-off.

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Either way, the local fans, who were in good numbers on Saturday, are in for a great finish on Sunday as Shubhankar bids to keep the Hero Indian Open trophy at home. The first two days were surprisingly calm.

"I played great. Ever since being three over through eight at the start of the week I've played some of the best golf of my life and to do it in that style at the end there capped it off", said Wallace reported Reuters. In what must rank as a disappointment for home fans, only eight Indians made the cut on the lengthened - and testing - course at their national Open, and of those that survived, seven - including 2015 victor Anirban Lahiri (T32, 75) - went over par as conditions continued to test resolve, ability and skill. So I'm happy with what I achieved even though it was somewhat of a mixed bag.

The Chandigarh-resident Shubhankar, who ahead of the final round, was in line to become the first Indian to win three European Tour titles in one season, said, "It was a disappointing day for me". I'm very pleased with the birdie at the last, which allowed me to grab a share of the lead. "I am looking forward to tomorrow", he added. "Importantly, I kept bouncing back to keep myself in the hunt", summed up Shubhankar. "I'll try to get a good night of sleep tonight and go from there". It's the second week in a row I'm in the leading group. "I won the last match-play event I played, the All India Amateur Championship in 2013", he said.

"If you told me I would be seven-under-par going into the weekend after being five-over-par on my opening nine holes yesterday, I would just have laughed", he said.

Ajeetesh Sandhu (74) was the next best Indian after Shubhankar on T26 at two-over-218.

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