KUALA LUMPUR – India’s 22-year-old Shubhankar Sharma once again served notice of his immense talent with a round of six-under-par 66 that tied him for the lead in the $7 million CIMB Classic on Saturday.
Sharma, who burst on to the scene with wins in Joburg and Maybank Championship on the European Tour earlier in the season, moved to 19-under-par 197, catching up with joint overnight leaders Gary Woodland of the US and Australia’s Marc Leishman, who both came in with 67 each.
The resurgent South African Louis Oosthuizen (65), who has recently been plagued with back injuries, and Bronson Burgoon (67) of the US – the surprise package of the tournament – were tied for fourth place at 17-under-par.
American 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink shot the lowest round of the day, a nine-under par 63, to move to tied seventh place at 15-under-par along with five others, while his compatriot Austin Cook (68) was the lone man in sixth place at 200.
Playing in the leader group, it was World No 24 Leishman who made the first move, starting with birdies on his first two holes and an eagle on the third.
But after making the turn in 30, he struggled on the back nine and came back in 37 shots.
Sharma was consistent on both halves.
He saved crunch pars on the eighth hole, where he chipped in, and the par-4 12th, where he extricated himself from the third fairway and made a gutsy up-and-down.
But he gave himself several birdie chances and converted seven of them. His only bogey came on the par-3 15th hole.
Sharma, who is trying to become the first Asian champion of the tournament, said three birdies in the first five holes and his par save on the eighth hole were crucial.
“I think it’s always important to get off to a good start, especially on this course where everyone’s just going low.
“You have to have your foot on the pedal from the first hole, and I was happy that I could make a few birdies of my own in the first five holes,” said Sharma, who led after the second and third rounds of the WGC-Mexico Championship earlier in the year before finishing tied ninth.
Former World No 1 and two-time champion Justin Thomas shot a 69, and was seven shots behind the leaders at 12-under par.
Defending champion Pat Perez was tied 42nd at six-under-par.
Other South Africans on the leaderboard include Ernie Els (10-under), Branden Grace (eight-under) and Justin Harding (six-under).AFP