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One for the ages: Sharma, 21, vs. Phil, 47

By Rex HoggardMarch 4, 2018, 12:29 am

MEXICO CITY – Who is Shubhankar Sharma?

For those who will find themselves asking the question on Sunday, take heart that the soft-spoken player from India is obscure even among the game’s play-for-pay set.

“I don't know, other than he's young. He's like 21, right?" laughed 24-year-old Justin Thomas. "Man, kids,” 

Even those who may have crossed paths with Sharma on the European Tour, which he qualified for with his victory in December at the Joburg Open, had only a passing knowledge.

“Relatively new,” Rafa Cabrera Bello shrugged. “I haven't really watched him play. I'm sure he's a very talented player, but I haven't had the opportunity to watch him play or play alongside him.”

It’s safe to say the world will be watching on Sunday when Sharma will set out at Chapultepec Golf Club with a two-stroke lead over the likes of Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia (with Dustin Johnson another stroke back) in the WGC-Mexico Championship. Sure, those names sound familiar.

But who is Shubhankar Sharma and how did he get from Gurugram, India, a suburb of New Delhi, to Mexico and one of the game’s marquee events?

This much we know:

Sharma turned pro at 16 and has spent the last five years playing in relative obscurity in Asia.

Before that Joburg Open breakthrough he didn’t have a victory on a major tour anywhere in the world, he didn’t have a European Tour card and he was 462nd in the world ranking.

From global journeyman to the doorstep of PGA Tour stardom in three months, Ferdinand Magellan didn’t cover that much ground.

He’s 21 going on 31 with a calm mind that has transcended the brightest lights of a World Golf Championship.

He’s not your prototypical modern professional. He doesn’t hit the golf ball miles, he’s not an imposing figure, standing just 5-feet-9, but through 54 holes he’s stood tall against the game’s titans – posting rounds of 65-66-69 for a 13-under total.

He’s playing his first Tour event and admitted that there has been a nonstop parade of surreal moments this week as he found himself side by side with the players he’s watched and idolized for years.

Oh, and he can putt - as evidenced by his 14-footer for par at the 18th hole on Saturday to secure the most unlikely of 54-hole advantages (as an aside, he also has a vintage fist pump).


Full-field scores from the WGC-Mexico Championship

WGC-Mexico Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“Obviously a dream come true for me to be playing in this tournament and obviously leading, that's just fantastic,” Sharma said. “I made a few mistakes on the greens but the greens are tough this week so I think everyone's making a few mistakes. I wasn't too hard on myself. Very happy that I could grind out a par on the last hole.”

He will need more of that on Sunday. For all the unknowns that come with Sharma, there’s nothing but proven products lurking behind him.

On Thursday following a 72 that Thomas said was “probably the worst I've ever felt over the ball in my life,” last week’s winner at the Honda Classic was back in familiar form with a course-record 62 on Day 3 that lifted him into the top 10.

Just three strokes behind the surprise leader was Johnson, the defending champion who shot his sixth consecutive round in the 60s at Chapultepec (68) and sounded as ominous as ever.

“I feel like I'm in a really good position,” Johnson said. “I feel like the game's in really good form. So there is a low one in there, hopefully it's tomorrow.”

Garcia also kept the pressure on, offsetting two bogeys with four birdies for a 69 that left him tied for second place at 11 under.

But it will be Mickelson who will be waiting on the first tee on Sunday. At least Sharma got the introductions out of the way before Saturday’s round.

“Me and my caddie went up to [Mickelson]. He thought we were media and he said, ‘Not right now, after the round,’” laughed Sharma, who will be grouped with Mickelson and Tyrrell Hatton. “Then he just realized and said, ‘So sorry, I thought you were media.’ He said ‘hi.’ I said ‘hi.’ Then he made a few putts and he came back to me and said, ‘Have a good day.’ It was nice.”

That surreal moment aside, Mickelson is the only player Sharma introduced himself to this week. “Phil is a legend,” he said. For context, consider that when Sharma was born, Lefty already had 113 starts, eight wins and 25 top-10s on Tour.

Mickelson, who is coming off his most consistent stretch in years, having finished inside the top 10 in his last three starts, has played un-Phil-like golf for the first three days. He’s driven the ball well, putted well and made just a single bogey over his last 36 holes.

For a player who is nearly five years removed from his last victory (2013 Open Championship) the confidence has returned.

“I'm putting the ball in play better, my iron play's back, my short game is back, I've been putting well, so overall I've been playing well and the scores are starting to reflect it,” said Mickelson, who won this event (2009 at Doral) during a different era. “So I'll get that ‘W.’ I don't know if it's tomorrow, I don't know when, but it will be soon, and when I do, I think I'll start to peel off a few.”

But first he’ll have to outduel Sharma, whose most vivid images of the game are watching major championships as a child into the early hours back home in India.

For three days, Sharma has exuded a quiet confidence and a refreshing indifference to his situation. Depending on how things play out on Sunday he can move into the top 25 in the world ranking - the highest ranking by a player from India - secure a start in the next World Golf Championship in three weeks and, with a victory, earn a trip to his first major at Augusta National.

He could also drastically change the narrative, from who is Shubhankar Sharma to what will he do next?

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1