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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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My dream is to represent India at Olympics, says golfer Gaurika Bishnoi

Mahima Katariya

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Gaurika Bishnoi
Gaurika Bishnoi

New Delhi: Gaurika Bishnoi’s reaction was worth watching when asked to comment on golf’s inclusion in the Olympics. The Indian professional golfer excitedly said, “For me, my dream event has been the Olympics. It is fantastic that now golf is a part of the Olympics.”

But she is also a bit disappointed as she has to wait till 2024 to represent India at the Games. “Unfortunately, I have to wait for the 2024 Olympics. Since I just graduated, so three years, it’s been juggling between studies and sports, it gets a little tough to do two things at a time. But I’m pretty optimistic about my chances in 2024,” Gaurika told Sports Lounge.

Golf was an Olympics sport in 1900 and 1904 and returned to the fold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She said her source of motivation is Aditi Ashok, a fellow professional Indian golfer who also took part at the Rio Games. In 2017, Aditi became India’s first golfer in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

Gaurika’s target is to emulate Aditi.  “I’m really inspired by Aditi. We have played and travelled together. I have seen how much she has improved and dedicated herself to the game. It is always better to have very relatable idols and I draw motivation from her,” she said.

The 22-year-old Gaurika is playing golf for almost the last 10 years. She was the top ranked profesional women’s golfer of the country in 2017-18 and also picked up her maiden title of the season in Hero WPG Tour.

She is satisfied with her performance till now. “I am happy to be the number one player in the country. But as a sports person, we always feel that we can get better and better, it is a never ending process.”

To improve, Gaurika takes feedback about her game regularly. According to her, she has definitely improved herself. “I would want to play on the European Tour with the full card. So I think that’s my next target now.”

The sports ministry granted has granted a 90-day lifeline to the Indian Golf Union (IGU) to run the sport after de-recognising it for failure to implement the National Sports Code. The Indian Olympic Association has formed a governance panel to run the sport and appointed Women’s Golf Association of India’s president (WGAI) Kavita Singh to chair its meetings.

When Gaurika was asked about her views on the issue she said, “It is very unfortunate what happened with IGU. “But Kavita ma’m genuinely loves the sport. So I am very sure that Kavita ma’m will do whatever best can be done for the golfers in India.”

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Wolf claims Hero Women’s Indian Open, Anika best placed Indian at 5th

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Christine Wolf
Christine Wolf, winner of Hero Women's Indian Open 2019 with Dr Pawan Munjal, Chairman, Hero MotoCorp

Gurugram: The country’s top amateur golfer Anika Varma finished a creditable fifth in the Hero Women’s Indian Open with a 3-under par aggregate of 285 and a final day card of two-under 70.

The 15-year-old Anika was one shot ahead of best-placed home professional Tvesa Malik, who was tied sixth at one-under 287.

“I was pretty nervous in the beginning but as soon as I hit my first tee shot I felt fine. I had a good group (with Sweden’s Emma Nilsson and Manon De Roey of Belgium) today and I enjoyed playing with them. That helped me play well too,” Anika said.

“I was pretty consistent today, just had one double (bogey) on the 16th. Before that, I was doing pretty good and I didn’t miss a single regulation before the 16th hole, I think only that one and the 18th, which was the highlight of my day.”

Last year, Tvesa had finished as the best home golfer at tied 13th and Sunday’s result was significant progress for the LET rookie as well.

“I think it was a little bit more of a struggle but I am happy with my overall performance for the week. I think I am happy with my game and the way I handled the pressure on the course, so I’m quite pleased overall,” said Tvesa.

“I missed a lot of putts so that was not a great part of my game. On the 18th hole, I definitely wasn’t expecting that to happen at all (chip-in from off the green) so I’m glad I could make a birdie from there.”

Christine Wolf of Austria buried the ghosts of the past with a bogey-free final round to clinch her maiden Ladies European Tour title.

The HWIO and the DLF Golf and Country Club is becoming a happy hunting ground for first-time winners. Following Welsh veteran Becky Morgan’s breakthrough win after 19 long years on the Ladies European Tour in 2018, it was the 30-year-old Austrian Wolf’s turn as she grabbed her first title after six years on the Tour.

Wolf, who received the trophy from Hero MotoCorp Chairman Pawan Munjal, showed no nervousness on the final day as she delivered a commanding bogey-free final round of 69 to total 11-under 277 and win with rounds of 73, 68, 67 and 69.

She finished three shots ahead of Marianne Skarpnord (70 and eight-under) and four ahead of MacLaren (72 and seven-under). Whitney Hillier, the halfway co-leader, shot 72 and was sole fourth at six-under.

Last year, Wolf fumbled twice. First on the third day while being well ahead and on the final day, when she was tied for the lead. She shot a quadruple bogey on the third day and a double bogey on the final day and finished Tied-second allowing Morgan to grab the title. This time, there was to be no such error.

“I’m super happy obviously with this first LET win, but also that I did it here,” said a beaming Wolf.

“Everyone knew of last year’s drama coming into the week here so to win by three shots was very nice. But you can’t get ahead of yourself in golf and I was obviously a little nervous.”

Among other Indians, Astha Madan (70 and 2-over 290) was Tied-19th, Vani Kapoor (75 and 3-over 291) was T-21st, Diksha Dagar (74 and 7-over 295) was Tied-32nd, Amandeep Drall (78 and 9-over 297) was T-37th, amateur Pranavi Urs (75 and 11-over 299) and Gaurika Bishnoi (77 and 11-over 299) were Tied-47th.

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Wolf leads, Anika best-placed Indian at Women’s Indian Open golf

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Anika verma
Anika Verma.

Gurugram: Teenager Anika Verma shot a stunning five-under 67 in the third round to be the best ranked Indian at tied ninth alongside compatriot Tvesa Malik in the Hero Women’s Indian Open golf tournament.

The 15-year-old Anika, who had six birdies, five of them on the front nine, against one bogey added a 67 to her first two round scores of 76-72.

While Tvesa followed her even par 72-72 with a 71. The duo are one-under par 215, seven shots behind leader Christine Wolf.

“I left a few shots out there on the course but I made the putts when I needed them. Overall, I’m very happy with my first under-par round of the week and positive about tomorrow,” Tvesa said.

Meanwhile, Wolf exorcised the ghosts of the past with a birdie on the 18th in the third round to take sole possession of the lead after 54 holes. She is now eight-under and one shot clear of Meghan MacLaren (69).

Another shot behind at seven-under 209 was Marianne Skarpnord (71), the highest-ranked player from the LET Order of Merit in this field.

Vani Kapoor shot an even par 72 to be tied-13th at one-over 217, following a steady round, in the course of which she swapped two bogeys for as many birdies.

Amandeep Drall could not build on her momentum of Friday with a three-over 75 that dropped her into a tie for 27th place at three-over 219.

Astha Madan was next best at four-over 220 (73, 75, 72) with her first par round of the week.

Diksha Dagar too left shots out on the course and is now tied 36th at five-over 221 (72, 73, 76) and Gaurika Bishnoi was tied-42 at six-over 222 (73, 74, 75).

Anika, till recently India’s top ranked junior and a qualifier in the US Girls Championship earlier in the year, hit six birdies and looked poised to bring in a bogey-free card till she dropped a shot on the intimidating par-4 17th hole. That was her only blemish of the day as she showed great composure and calm.

“I kept hitting it very good today. I didn’t need very long putts other than the eighth hole where I needed a little over 20 feet for the conversion. Most of my approach shots were within range so I could just go for most of the putts,” Anika said.

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