Closing birdie gives Sharma added confidence for weekend in Dubai; Harding leads

Justin Harding and Shubhankar Sharma. Pic: European Tour

Dubai, Jan 28: A closing birdie with a 12-foot tense putt gave Shubhankar Sharma some breathing space, while also assuring him action over the weekend at the 2022 Dubai Desert Classic. Sharma at one time was in danger of missing the cut, which looked like falling at even par and eventually fell at one-over.

Sharma with birdies on third and 18th and bogeys on fourth and sixth carded a second straight par and was placed T-49th. With the cut coming at 1-over, as many as 80 players ensured play over the weekend.

South Africa’s Justin Harding landed a spectacular eagle to light up a 68, which he also called a grind, and took a two-shot lead into the weekend. The South African had to return to complete his opening round on day two and birdied the last to take a share of the 18-hole lead before a hole-out from 183 yards on the par-four sixth in round two helped him hit the front at 11 under, two clear of four-time Rolex Series champion Tyrrell Hatton.

Sharma, who finished runner-up at the Rolex Series Abu Dhabi Championship last week, was relieved to have a chance over the weekend instead of missing out after a good week in Abu Dhabi. Sharma said, “That would have been a pity, as I am playing well. That closing birdie, which was a bit of a double breaker, was good to go back with. It gives you confidence.”

Sharma said, “Mentally, it was a grind. It wasn’t easy to make putts. I wasn’t stroking at the best either. So it was tough towards the end. I was waiting patiently for a birdie to secure my spot for the weekend. But, I’m still confident I’m playing well. It’s all about getting on to a good start tomorrow.”

When asked about his hitting, he added, I was hitting the ball really well yesterday and even today it was just putting that didn’t work. I would say it could have been a solid 3 or 4 under. I won’t say it was 7k or 8 under but with that hitting I should have done better.”

Harding is a two-time winner on the DP World Tour but is yet to star in a Rolex Series event, with last week’s tie for 25th at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship matching his best finish.

South African Erik van Rooyen and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti were at eight under, one ahead of Ryder Cup teammates Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy, England’s Richard Bland, Dane Joachim B. Hansen and Pole Adrian Meronk.
Defending champion Paul Casey was then in the all-English group at six under alongside Marcus Armitage, Tommy Fleetwood, Sam Horsfield and Lee Westwood.
Harding said, “Made some putts, to be fair. I’ve driven the ball well, I didn’t drive it that great yesterday. I rolled the ball pretty good. For the most part, kept bogeys off the card. I’ve played this golf course well over the years. Had a good final round a couple years back and was in contention last year and played badly on the Sunday.”

McIlroy, who shot 66, said, “It (the round) could have been way lower. I certainly hit the ball well enough for it to be lower. I missed a few opportunities.”

Read also:

Sharma drops terrible triple after 4-under first nine, cards 72

Sharma to tee off in Dubai as he looks to build on Abu Dhabi showing


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