Having worked hard to make the halfway cut, India's Shubhankar Sharma made it count with a fine four-under 67, which took him to nine-under 204 at the end of the third day of Scottish Open here Saturday. He started bogey-bogey but made seven birdies before finishing with a bogey on 18th for a 67.
He was placed tied 35th and almost half the field, including overnight leaders Bernd Wiesberger (61), Erik Van Rooyen of South Africa (64-64) and Lee Slattery (64-64), were tied for the lead at 14-under 128. Even before the leaders teed off, Andrea Pavan took advantage of good scoring conditions to shoot 62 with two eagles on front nine to join them at 14-under.
Sharma is the only Indian to have qualified for The Open next week, and a cut this week will be an added boost for the young golfer, who will turn 23 on the Sunday of the year's last Major. Last year he made the cut on his birthday and smiled when reminded of that. "It was a nice feeling," he added.
Sharma, after a first round even par 71, was three-under the front nine, in the second round. He birdied the third, sixth and the eighth on the front nine. He added one more on 11th with a good 10-footer birdie putt. He added a birdie on 18th with a 45-footer in pouring rain to make the cut on the line. Sharma started the day on a disappointing note with bogey-bogey on first two holes. Yet he fought brilliantly with seven birdies and got to double figures at 10-under, but then dropped a bogey on 18th to finish at nine-under.
One of the other big moves was Asian Tour's Kurt Kitayama, who was six-under through 12 holes and he moved to 12-under and was tied sixth with six more holes to play. "That wait was tense, but there was little I could do. I played very well on the front nine and another birdie on 11th made it four-under. I missed a couple of chance, but also made some good clutch putts," Sharma said.
"That huge putt was a massive relief, but I was still not sure whether that was good enough. I waited till the very end to find out my fate, luckily I was in for weekend." On his third round, he added, "I had an up and down day with a bogey-bogey start. Always very disappointing to start like that. But I am proud that I fought back hard and made birdies on fourth and fifth. Both were about 15 footers and I had excellent second shots, too."
He turned in one-under and then had a great back nine. "I holed a 15-footer on 10th for birdie and then on 13th I hit a 50 degree wedge to three feet from almost 120 yards for a birdie. Again on 15th, a Par-3, I hit a 2-Iron to two feet. On 16th, I drove well and hit a 2-Iron and then two-putted for birdie to get to 5-under."
But the end was a bit bitter. "I went into the left bunker and did not have a shot, and was forced to just advance 110 yards and then ended with a bogey," added Sharma.
"Still all in all it was a solid day." Friday saw three leader after 36 holes but the most impressive was Bernd Wiesberger who shot 10-under 61 to reach 14-under 128. The other two at 14-under were Erik Van Rooyen of South Africa (64-64), and Lee Slattery (64-64).
Rory McIlroy (67-67) was eight under and six behind the leaders. With McIlroy were Romain Wattel, who shot 63 on first day. Four others, Eddie Pepperell (67-67), Matt Wallace (68-66), Andrew Johnston (69-65) and Thomas Detry (69-65) were also at eight-under.
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