TATA Steel Tour C'ship: Shubhankar’s stunning 63 catapults him into joint lead on Day 3

Shubhankar Sharma Asian TourJamshedpur: Indian star Shubhankar Sharma set the Golmuri Golf Course ablaze with a nine-under, his best ever score over nine holes, enroute a stunning nine-under 63 that catapulted him into the joint lead along with 2019 champion Udayan Mane, who shot a fighting 67 to boost his chances of winning the Order of Merit title, in round three of the Rs. 1.5 crore TATA Steel Tour Championship 2021 being played at the Beldih and Golmuri Golf Courses in Jamshedpur.

Shubhankar (67-71-63) and Udayan (68-66-67), currently third in the PGTI rankings, totaled 15-under 201 to be placed two shots ahead of the chasing pack consisting of other contenders including defending champion Gaganjeet Bhullar (67-67-69), SSP Chawrasia (63-69-71), a three-time winner in Jamshedpur and Veer Ahlawat (68-67-68), who is currently eighth in the PGTI’s merit list and also has a shot at the Order of Merit crown.

Shubhankar Sharma followed up his sedate 71 in round two with a red-hot 63 on Saturday to make a strong comeback in the tournament as he climbed seven spots from his overnight tied eighth position. The 25-year-old, a two-time winner on the European Tour, fired two eagles, six birdies and a bogey during his outstanding effort that matched the tournament’s lowest round earlier shot by SSP Chawrasia on day one.

Sharma, a winner in his previous appearance in Jamshedpur in 2016, kick-started his round with birdie-eagle on the first two holes with a 12 feet and 25 feet conversion respectively. Shubhankar then landed it within a foot for birdie on the sixth and for his second eagle of the day on the ninth. He also had three other birdies during his extraordinary front-nine at Golmuri.

After the turn, Sharma’s round slowed down as he could only pick up a birdie and a bogey on the back-nine at the Beldih Golf Course.

Shubhankar said, “I’m really happy as I shot my best score in nine holes ever. However, the back-nine was a bit of a dampener as I didn’t make any inroads there. But shooting a 63 is great especially on the moving day.

“The birdie-eagle start gave the impetus to my round which I built upon through the front-nine. I also started well in Beldih but missed an easy up and down on the 12th that took the wind out of my sails a little bit. After that it was tough making birdies as the greens in Beldih are smaller and the pin positions were also tougher today.

“I’m looking forward to the last round as I’ll be playing alongside Udayan who is a great friend. I always enjoy playing with him.”

Olympian Udayan Mane, lying overnight tied third and two off the lead, too had a good start to the day as he birdied the first from 10 feet and then recovered well from the bunker wall with a chip-putt birdie on the fourth before sinking a 30-footer for birdie on the fifth. Mane dropped a shot on the eighth but soon regained control with birdie on the ninth.

Udayan then made two-under on the back-nine in Beldih with a 25-feet eagle conversion on the 12th and a birdie and bogey each. Mane, currently third on the PGTI Order of Merit, is now in with a chance of winning the Order of Merit title if he triumphs in Jamshedpur.

Udayan, who represented India at this year’s Tokyo Olympics, said, “It was a fighting round today as I didn’t play my best but managed to claw my way to five-under. I’m pretty happy with where I am now.

“I got off to a good start on the first hole but was disappointed at not being able to capitalize on the next two par-5s. That’s something I need to work on tomorrow. Nonetheless, I’m happy with how I played the par-3s today.

“One of the things to do in the final round would be to adapt quickly to the second venue. Those who can manage that will have a huge advantage.”

Gaganjeet Bhullar’s 69 featured an eagle, five birdies and four bogeys while SSP Chawrasia’s 71 included five birdies and four bogeys.

Veer Ahlawat struck an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys during his 68. Veer too has an opportunity to win the Order of Merit title if he wins this week’s event. He is eighth in the merit list at the moment.

Bengaluru’s Chikkarangappa, currently second in the PGTI Order of Merit, shot a brilliant 65 to move up 27 spots to tied 20th at six-under 210. With a possible top-5 finish in Jamshedpur, Chikka too stands a chance of wrapping up the Order of Merit title.

PGTI Order of Merit leader Karandeep Kochhar of Chandigarh fired a solid 67 to climb 22 spots to tied 33rd at three-under 213. Kochhar continues to be one of the favourites to win the PGTI Order of Merit title as he is ahead by Rs. 3,55,250 in the money list and not too far behind nearest rival Chikkarangappa on the leaderboard.

Indian golf legend Jyoti Randhawa (70) ended the day in tied 46th place at one-under 215.

The two Jamshedpur-based professionals, Karan Taunk (four-over 220) and Kurush Heerjee (13-over 229), were placed 64th and tied 71st respectively.