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Flawless Sharma begins Major ambition on decent note, lies tied 21st after Rd 1

Joy Chakravarty

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India's Shubhankar Sharma (R) tees off on Thursday from the first hole at Royal Portrush for the 148th Open Championship as World No. 1 Brooks Koepka (C) looks on. Photos: Joy Chakravarty

Antrim, Northern Ireland: Shubhankar Sharma made a superb start to his campaign at the 148th Open Championship on Thursday, when playing alongside World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, the Indian ace returned a bogey-free card of one-under par 70.

It was Sharma’s first bogey-free round in a Major championship and his lowest round in the oldest tournament in the world. He had made the cut last year at Carnoustie, but two even par rounds were his best effort there.

Sharma, who turns 23 on Sunday, was tied for 21st place with American JB Holmes the clubhouse leader at five-under par 66. Ireland’s Shane Lowry was a stroke behind at four-under 67.

Koepka began with a three-under par 68, making his only bogey of the day on the 17th hole. He was alongside several players in the tied third place, including last week’s PGA Tour champion Dylan Frittelli, Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood.

Sharma started with 12 straight pars before draining a long, 30-footer putt for birdie on the par-3 13th. He then saved crucial pars on the next three holes, including making a 20-feet putt on the 15th to stay without any blemish on his card, and then prevented a sour end to the round by making another fantastic up-and-down for par on the final hole.

“I am very happy with the way I played. Any time you can play a bogey-free round, and especially in a tournament like the Open Championship, you cannot really complain about anything,” said Sharma, who was tied 51st in the tournament last year, his only cut in the four Majors he has played so far.

“I missed a few opportunities on the front nine. I had a birdie chance from five feet on the seventh hole, but then I also saved some good pars.”

The conditions at Royal Portrush were not easy, and the intermittent sharp showers accompanied by gusting winds of 25-30 mph did not help.

“I felt we were spending more time getting in and out of our raingear. It wasn’t easy out there,” added Sharma. “All the more reason to be happy with the bogey-free round.

“It was not easy out there and I’m pleased with myself. In the beginning I was struggling with the lines and didn’t hole too many putts. But I found my rhythm on the back-nine and managed to play some steady golf from there.”

Two of the biggest stars in the tournament—15-time major champion Tiger Woods and local hero Rory McIlroy—did not have a good start and look like in danger of missing the cut.

Woods looked off colour and made just one birdie in a round of seven-over par 78. McIlroy finished one worse at 79, his round starting with a horrible quadruple bogey eight on the par-4 first hole and ending with a triple bogey seven on the 18th.

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Rookie Gauri Karhade wins maiden pro title in sixth attempt

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Gauri Karhade in action during final round

Hyderabad: Rookie Gauri Karhade playing only her sixth event as a pro on the Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour, stunned the front runners, amateur Shreya Pal, and the seasoned Gaurika Bishnoi, to land her first title on the circuit. She stayed calm and held her nerve to shoot a final round of 73 for a total of two-under 214 and win the 12th Leg by one shot over Gaurika Bishnoi (75) and Afshan Fatima (70).

Afshan Fatima, who made a great charge on the front nine with a two-under 34, held the lead midway through the back nine but dropped crucial back-to-back bogeys on 15th and 16th to fall into a tie for second with Gaurika at one-under 215.

Playing the final group, overnight leader, Shreya Pal began with a flourish on the first with a birdie. But she dropped three bogeys in the next four holes. Gauri, starting the final day two behind leader Shreya and one behind Gaurika, was steady and she parred the first five holes, as Gaurika also dropped a shot on second.

Then it was Gauri’s turn to make a mistake with a double bogey on sixth, but Gaurika dropped a bogey on seventh and Shreya dropped a double bogey. That opened the door for Gauri. Meanwhile, Afshan was making a charge with three birdies against one bogey on the front nine.

After nine holes, it was still a very tight battle. Gaurika, who was four-under for two rounds, was still two-under after 45 holes. Four players, Shreya, Afshan, Gauri and Ananya Datar were at one-under after the front nine.

On the back nine, Gauri and Afshan found birdies on 11th and Gaurika bogeyed to let Gauri and Afshan move into the lead with the two-shot swing. Gauri dropped a shot on 12th to fall back and Afshan was sole leader.

Gauri and Afshan both birdied the 14th at which stage Afshan was ahead at three-under and Gauri was two-under. Gaurika stayed at one-under. Shreya, now five-over for the day after a bogey on 12th, fell back to even par.

Then it was Afshan’s turn to make mistakes and she made two in a row on 15th and 16th that allowed Gauri to sneak ahead. She only had to stay calm and get her pars. She did just that. None of the three, including Gaurika, made birdies on the last two holes, leaving Gauri as the victor.

Gaurika, unable to find birdies the whole day, ended Tied-second with Afshan, who after a great 14 holes made crucial errors to throw away a chance.

Gauri, who started playing at the age of 10 and learnt her early lessons in Thane and Kharghar, has honed her skills at the Poona Golf Club and now resides in Mumbai.

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Korn Ferry finals: Ace golfer Anirban Lahiri gets positive start

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Lahiri had a rough start as he started from 10th and bogeyed 11th and 14th to go two-over.

Columbus: Indian ace golfer Anirban Lahiri started his campaign on a positive note, he shot four-under 67 to be placed at tied-fifth in the first round of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship here. The tournament is the first one in the series of three-event Korn Ferry finals.

The 32-year-old PGA Tour golfer was down by two strokes when he began his round with bogeys at the 11th and 14th holes. But the resilient Indian fought back with six birdies, including back to back birdies to finish the round. He had five birdies in a brilliant second nine, after starting the day at the 10th tee.

“I got off to a bad start but played good as things went on. I dropped a shot on 11th and then hit a bad drive but I started getting more comfortable later on. The greens were slower than what I have played in recent months. But then I was getting more comfortable with the surfaces as things went on,” Lahiri said.

Conversely, another Indian contender Shubhankar Sharma conceded a double bogey on the first hole and battled his way to a 75 that left him outside the top 100.

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Vani snatches lead in Round 2 of 11th leg

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Hyderabad: Vani Kapoor moved into sole lead despite a late double bogey in the second round of the 11th leg of the Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour at the Hyderabad Golf Club on Thursday. The 25-year-old NCR golfer, who is playing her first domestic event this season and has come back after two months while recovering from niggling injuries, had three birdies against two bogeys and a double bogey in her card of one-over 72.

Vani is now four-over 146, but three shots clear of her nearest rival Gaurika Bishnoi, who shot the day’s best and the week’s first par round of 71.

Gaurika, one of the only two players to have four birdies in the second round, birdied first, sixth, ninth and 17th, while dropping shots on second, seventh, 12th and 14th. Amateur Shreya Pal was the other player with four birdies, but she dropped numerous shots including a triple bogey on the par-4 18th for 76.

Ananya Datar overcame a rough front nine of five-over 40 with a one-under 35 in the back nine for a 75 that brought her to 151 and put her in shared third place with overnight leader, amateur Sneha Singh (78).

Sneha, the 15-year-old Hyderabad golfer who was outstanding on the first day, had a tough day despite three birdies. She had eight bogeys and one double bogey for seven-over 78 that saw her slip to Tied-third place.

Vani birdied the second, gave the gains back on the long Par-3 fourth and birdied the par-5 sixth as she turned in one-under. On the back nine, she dropped a shot on 12th, but birdied the Par-3 16th. Just as it seemed she was set for a big lead, she dropped a double bogey on Par-5 17th to fall back to one-over for the day and finished at 72.

Neha Tripathi (77), Gurjot Badwal (78), amateur Shreya Pal (76) and Khushi Khanijau (75) occupied the fifth to eighth places. Siddhi Kapoor (78) was ninth, while three players, Suchitra Ramesh (78), Gauri Karhade (79) and Amandeep Drall (82) were Tied-tenth.

Ridhima Dilawari and Gursimar Badwal were among the five players tied at 13th with a total of 160.

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