Shubhankar shoots 71 in Abu Dhabi, but is disappointed with late bogeys

Abu Dhabi, Jan 16 (PTI) Shubhankar Sharma grinded it out for most part of the day to finish with a one-under 71 in the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship here on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Sharma, who admitted he did not hit his iron shots very well, was at two-under through 14 holes, before a couple of missed putts from inside five feet gave him bogeys and a lot of grief.

In between, there was a sweetener with a 25-foot birdie on the eighth, his 17thhole of the day.

Sharma, who spent a week of his off-season with the golf-playing Sadguru in Coimbatore, shot 71 and was at tied-49th alongside last week's Hong Kong Open winner Wade Ormsby of Australia, Danny Willett and the 2017 and 2018 winner of Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Tommy Fleetwood, and Patrick Cantlay of the US.

'It was a kind of a mediocre round, but still under par. I drove okay, but the irons were not that good. Also, I did not putt well, missed a few short ones, especially at the end. That's never a good feeling. I am off in the morning tomorrow, so hopefully I will be fine, Sharma said.

The other Indian player in the field, Gaganjeet Bhullar had a forgettable day with a seven-over 79 and will need to play out of his skin to make the cut at the first of the three events in the Desert Swing on the European Tour.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, returning to action after a 89-day gap due to injury, played as if he was never away, shooting a bogey-free six-under 66, which was still two short of South African Shaun Norrris and Italian Renato Paratore, who carded eight-under 64 each.

Norris normally plays on the Japan Tour, where he has four wins and was second on the Japan Order of Merit in 2019, has two wins on Asian Tour, one of which was co-sanctioned with Japan. He also has two wins on Sunshine Tour in South Africa, but none in Europe. PTI Corr PDS PDS PDS