Bhullar hangs in for 73 in tough conditions as Sharma falters; Pieters leads in Dubai

Dubai, Jan 23: Gaganjeet Bhullar knuckled down and handled the extremely tough course and conditions to card one-over 73 in the first round of the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic. His compatriot, Shubhankar Sharma, playing in the morning did a lot of hard work on the front nine to be even, only to go five-over on the back nine for 77.

Bhullar was Tied-45 while Sharma at T-101 was in danger of missing the cut, which looks likely at two-over as only 29 players went under par. That was the lowest number with under par scores in the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic in 30 years since 1990.

With thick rough, firm fairways and doglegs in swirling winds, the players struggled even as tenth tee starter Belgian Thomas Pieters led with five-under 67. Pieters overcame a three-shot hit on first and second, right after the turn. He was chased by American David Lipsky (68).

Shaun Norris six-under through 12 had five more pars, before a triple bogey finish on ninth saw him finish at 69 in a bunch of 12.

Sharma picked a birdie on the second but gave it back on the eighth. On the back nine, as the winds became stronger, he dropped shots on 10th, 12th, 15thand 17thand had a double bogey on Par-4 14th. The birdie on Par-5 18th was small consolation.

Bhullar started on the tenth and picked a birdie on 11thonly to give it away on 16th. He missed a birdie putt from inside eight feet on 18thbut hung in grittily with pars right till his last hole, the ninth. There he pulled his tee shot into thick rough and ended with a bogey.

“It was tough with the thick rough, narrow fairways and the wind. Some thing or the other was waiting to get you, so pars were welcome. I had a couple of chances but that last bogey was disappointing after holding out for so long,” said Bhullar.

Pieters turned in a flawless five-under after starting from the tenth. He was set to blaze the Emirates Golf Course, before a double on the first and a bogey on second set him back. He fought back with three birdies from fifth to seventh for 67.

Norris with a win, four second places and five other top tens in his last 15 events worldwide looked like the man to catch before a trip to the water on his closing hole, the ninth, brought him grief with a triple.

Defending champion Bryson DeChambeau shot two-under 70 but last week’s winner Lee Westwood ballooned to 78. Tommy Fleetwood carded 75 and Shane Lowry was even par.

Major Champions Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen carded71 each, while Henrik Stenson, who said he had played this course more often than any other in his life, shot 72.

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