Turkish Airlines Open: Modest start for Shubhankar Sharma; Justin Rose stays on course to become World No 1 again

V Krishnaswamy
Shubhankar, who is almost guaranteed to become the Rookie of the Year on the European Tour following this week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, is playing his 31st tournament in the 46th week of the year.

Antalya, Turkey: Shubhankar Sharma, two over after five holes, made an excellent recovery around the turn with three birdies in a span of four holes, before leaving a chip too short on the 18th to drop a shot a finish at 1-under 70 in the first round of the Turkish Airlines Open on Thursday.

The two-time winner on the European Tour, who is gunning for the Rookie of the Year honours on the European Tour, was lying T-32nd as Irishman from two different generations held the spotlight. While young Paul Dunne carded 7-under 64 with seven birdies and no bogeys, Padraig Harrington, who got a thumbs up from Justin Rose as the best candidate for next Ryder Cup captain of Europe, celebrated that with a 6-under 65 to be Tied-second.

Defending champion Rose, who needs a win this week to become World No 1 once again, stayed on course, with a flawless 65 that had an eagle just like in the Pro-Am and four birdies as he played cruised along smoothly.

Harrington and Rose were tied with Thorbjorn Olesen. The 2017 Race To Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, playing with Rose and Olesen dropped a late bogey on 18th and ended at 68.

It was a low-scoring day as 11 players shot 5-under or better and another eight were 4-under as the course at Regnum Carya yielded good scorers on firm and fasting greens in ideal sunny conditions with a just slight breeze.

Sharma, leading the race to become the Harry Cotton Rookie of the Year 2018, said, "I gave away two silly bogeys early, first with an errant shot and then a three-putt from 15 feet on fifth. I got one back on seventh as I was steady and played well thereafter especially between 10th and 12th where I had three birdies. The last hole bogey was a disappointment and left a bitter taste, as I hit a poor chip and missed the longish par putt."

But he felt that he had hit the ball well and loved the course. "This course is excellent and very beautiful. The weather was fine and I just missed out a couple of shots there with errors, but it is just the first day. The greens were much faster than on practice days and after a few holes I had adjusted."

The top Asian in the field was Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, who was 6-under and then dropped a shot on 18th to fall to 66. Kiradech admitted it was an interesting day with seven birdies and two bogeys. He said, "A few birdies and a couple dropped shots, which is easy to make here. Missed the putt from four feet and didn't get up-and-down on 17. Overall, still in good shape." He added, "I just want to keep hitting fairways and greens because I know my putting is quite well from last week and I feel like I've got my A Game back and I'm striking the ball quite well. Not absolutely perfect but still in play."

Irishman Dunne set the tone in the morning with a brilliant bogey-free 64 to set the clubhouse target and it stood for the rest of the day despite some challenge from his own countryman Padraig Harrington, who finally finished 6-under 65.

Eight players including Kiradech were at 5-under in T-5th and the bunch included Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer and two Chinese stars Wu Ashun and Li Haotong. Nine players including 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett shot 4-under 68 to be T-12.

Dunne said, "My iron play was pretty good. I think the biggest thing I did out there was on the three or four difficult tee shots, I hit really good tee shots, and apart from that, the ones I leaked a little bit were on holes you could get away with it and you could make birdie still from the rough. That's what I was pleased with, the holes I needed to hit a good shot on, I stepped up and hit a really straight one."

He added, "This is a course I saw for the first time last year and I like it. Sets up nicely for me. Had a couple weeks' practise before, and was hoping to give it a hundred and hopefully I can build on this."

Dunne, teeing off from 11th, which is from where the back stretch starts at the Regnum Carya, had gains on the 11th, 13th and 15th to join the early group at the top. He carried on with birdies on 18th, first and seventh for a flawless 64.

Harrington started from the first and began his round with three birdies added further birdies on 5th, 9th, 12th and 13th and the sole blemish was on Par-5 seventh.

Also See: Turkish Airlines Open: Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood prepare for tournament with different goals in mind

Turkish Airlines Open: Global traveller Shubhankar Sharma gears up for final series of 2018 European Tour

CJ Cup: Hampered by cold, windy conditions, Shubhankar Sharma shoots 74 on first day of Korea tournament

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