Shubhankar adds 2-under and is placed  ninth in $9m Abu Dhabi golf; Molinari in shared lead

Shubhankar Sharma with his caddie, Lyle Phillips at Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships. Pic: V Krishnswamy

Abu Dhabi, Jan 20: Shubhankar Sharma three-putted his closing  hole, the ninth, but was still in tied ninth place at the halfway stage of the US $ 9 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships. Feeding of the positive memories from the last year’s results, when he was runner-up at the year’s first Rolex Series elite event, Shubhankar carded 2-under 70 and was 7-under 137 just inside the Top-10.

“That final bogey left a bit of bitter taste. I should have got that par and I had one other three-putt. But still just inside top-10 at halfway is something I would take in such a big event right at the start of the season,” said Sharma, who after his first round went to see the Ferrari World, right opposite the Yas Links.

“That was great fun and it helped me keep my mind fresh and energised,” said Sharma, who was 29th in the DP World Tour Rankings in 2022.

The leader board had two Italians sharing the lead. They are both fresh from an excellent showing at the Hero Cup, also in Abu Dhabi last week. Francesco Molinari, the 2018 Open winner at Carnoustie, who led Continental European team to victory over Great Britain & Ireland, shot a second straight 67 to get to 10-under. He shared the top spot with fellow Italian, Guido Miglozzi (65-69), who played under Molinari last week.

Sharma was tied ninth alongside Shane Lowry (70), Ryan Fox (66), Adrian Meronk (67), Masahiro Kawamura (70), Antoine Rozner (68) and Min Woo Lee (69).

European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald’s (64-75) triple bogey on Par-3 17th saw him fall from first lead to five shots behind the leader.

Defending champion Thomas Pieters (73-72) will miss the cut.

Sharma, who was bogey free on the first day, started from the tenth just before noon, and had to endure windy conditions. He had five birdies against three bogeys.

Summing up his round, Sharma said, “As for the difference between the first and second day was that it was a smoother for me yesterday.  I didn’t make any bogeys yesterday and today was up and down.

“It was quite windy from the very first hole. And putting wasn’t very easy. I made two three-putts on the front nine, which was my back nine. I three-putted fourth and ninth. So, in terms of conditions it was tougher today.

“As compared to yesterday, the green were so fresh in the morning and always better to roll the ball on. So today and yesterday were very different but looking on the positive side – seven under for two days. I would have taken it if you told me on Wednesday.  As the week progresses, it will become harder and crusty and it will be a true test over the weekend.”

Jason Scrivener of Australia with 65-70 was sole third, while there were five players Victor Perez (65), Alexander Bjork (65), George Coetzee (68), Scott Jamieson (69) and Alexander Levy (68).

Starting on the 10th, Molinari double bogeyed his seventh hole and bogeyed his eighth. Then he fire six birdies on his back nine, the front side of Yas Links,  to post a five-under 67.

Molinari was very pleased with his 67-67. “Same score as yesterday but very different day. Many more up-and-downs than yesterday. A couple of three putts, a couple of mental errors but also lots of good stuff, a couple of long putts made. So a bit of everything. Obviously a very good back nine, which is nice. I think where you are, where I’m at at the moment, when you go through a tough patch, it’s nice to see that I can pick it up again?,” said the Italian.

“If I’m completely honest, I didn’t feel as comfortable as I did yesterday on the course but more comfortable toward the end. Like I was saying before, when you’re not maybe extremely confident in my game yet, it’s nice to see that even after a rough couple of holes, I can get back to doing my own thing and hitting some good golf shots.”

Migliozzi closed out his round with three successive birdies for a 3-under 69.

Donald would have been pleased with the form of two potential Ryder Cup players, Molinari and Migliozzi, but not as much with his own game as he followed his opening-round 8-under 64 with a 3-over 75.

The 45-year-old birdied his opening two holes on Friday, only to bogey eight and 12 and then drop three shots at the par-three 17th.

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