Grillo leads while Sharma surges

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There's no stopping Sharma
  • Post published:March 9, 2018

Emiliano Grillo heads into the weekend at the Hero Indian Open with a four-shot lead but will be looking over his shoulder at local hero Shubhankar Sharma in New Delhi.

The Argentinian is playing in his 111th European Tour event but has played just two outside of the Majors and World Golf Championships since 2015 as he searches for a first victory.

The 25-year-old is an invite this week and was making the most of his opportunity, posting rounds of 65 and 68 to get to 11 under and it looked like he would take a handsome lead into round three.

But Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex leader Sharma – who represents DLF Golf and Country Club – came home in 30 to post a new course record of 64 and emerge as the nearest challenger on a course where big swings in scoring can be common.

Sharma’s surge was all the more remarkable considering he was five over after his first nine holes on Thursday.

Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal and England’s Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston were then at six under after rounds of 71 and 66 respectively.

Grillo birdied the 11th and 12th and, when he took advantage of the par-five 18th for the second day in a row, he was four clear.

A 20-foot putt on the 2nd extended his lead further and another birdie came as he got to the side of the green on the par-five 8th in two.

At that point he led by seven but sand off the tee led to a bogey on the 9th and he had to wait and see what the afternoon players would do.

‘Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it,’ he said. ‘When I practised on Tuesday and played the pro-am on Wednesday, I was telling myself that I’ll be in a good position if I can just shoot under par every day.

‘Hopefully, I can keep my form going. I’ve done well over the past two days and I can’t ask for more. Today, I hit some bad putts, but I think I’ll be fine.’

Sharma turned in 34 with birdies on the 1st, 4th and 8th and a bogey on the 7th before a stunning approach to the tight pin on the 10th brought a tap-in birdie and prompted a brilliant run of scoring.

The 21-year-old holed a long putt on the 12th, put an approach to eight feet on the 13th and then hit a wonderful third out of the rough on the par-five 15th to set up another birdie.

A sensational approach to the 17th brought another gain and, when he got up and down from over the back of the 18th green, the course record was his.

‘Today’s round will definitely rank up there as one of my most significant achievements, especially when it is played at this course,’ he said. ‘This is a tough course and it is not easy to go low here.

‘I’m very happy with the way I played. I’ve shot a few low numbers in my career and this one is right in my top five.

‘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. To be able to bounce back is really important, I knew I was playing well and I had to push myself a little.’

Playing partner Johnston made a hat-trick of birdies from the 2nd, bogeyed the 5th but picked the shot back up on the 8th to turn in 33.

Another gain came on the 11th and impressive slippery putts on the 16th and last put him right in contention.

Larrazábal birdied the 5th and, when he holed from four feet on the par-five 7th, he was within four of the lead but that was as close as he would get.

The four-time European Tour winner found knee-high grass on the 10th and went through the back of the 17th to drop shots before a sublime chip on the last set up a closing birdie.

Swede Jens Dantorp, England’s Matt Wallace, South African Keith Horne and Thai Panuphol Pittayarat were at five under, a shot clear of a group including France’s Sébastien Gros, Dutchman Joost Luiten, American Paul Peterson, South Korea’s Jeunghun Wang and Scot Marc Warren.