Shubhankar battles wind to shoot 68, lies 21st in Saudi International golf

Kaec (Saudi Arabia), Jan 30 (PTI) India's Shubhankar Sharma handled the tough and windy conditions well as he returned with a quality two-under 68 to be placed tied 21st after the first round of the Saudi International golf tournament here on Thursday.

With strong winds blowing through the Royal Greens, running along the Red Sea, Shubhankar stitched together a round with five birdies and two bogeys for 68 and was tied alongside his former Asian Tour colleagues Jazz Janewattananond, Scott Hend and Justin Harding.

Another Asian Tour star, Gavin Green shared the lead with Graeme McDowell at six-under 64 with five players including Henrik Stenson lying tied third at 65.

Gaganjeet Bhullar, playing with co-leader Green, had an off-day as he began bogey-bogey and added two more on 11th and 18th but made no birdies.

At four-over, Bhullar, T-34 last year, faces an early exit unless he gets a great second round.

'I was happy with my play, even though dropping a shot on the last hole (ninth) was disappointing, but the hole was playing difficult,' said a pleased Shubhankar. Green set the morning pace with 64.

Zipping through the front nine in five-under 31, he was six-under through 10. Green overcame two three-putts on the back nine and compensated with birdies on 16th and 17th.

In tough afternoon winds, only 2010 US Open champion McDowell came up with a low round. His 64 included four straight birdies from the second and another three from 16th. He had one other birdie and a double bogey on Par-3 11th.

Playing with McDowell, American Phil Mickelson was two-over for front nine. Then he had had an amazing back nine with seven birdies, besides one par and one bogey.

In the morning two Swedes, Stenson and Sebastian Soderberg, who shot to fame by playing the final round in Dubai in one hour 37 minutes, carded 65 each, as did Spain's Adri Arnaus.

Jhonattan Vegas and Victor Perez joined them in the evening at 65. PTI Cor SSC SSC SSC