Shubhankar Sharma gave himself the perfect 22nd birthday present as he birdied the 18thand final hole of the second round at the 147th Open Championships.
That birdie, one of the four he had in a stunning back nine, took his total to 2-over 144 and that should be inside the cut line, which shall be applied at the end of the second round. Sharma will become the youngest Indian to make the cut at a Major, at one day short of 22. Earlier in the year, he missed cuts at the Masters and the US Open.
India’s other challenger, Anirban Lahiri, who shot 76 in the first round, will need to come out with a low round to join Sharma in the weekend action.
The cut line was hovering between 2-over and 3-over, but Sharma seemed to have made sure at 2-over.
Sharma, who looks and stays calm at all times, sported a wide smile as he said: “I am so excited right now. At the 18th I still thought I just needed to make a par because so many players have yet to finish. After the putt dropped I was definitely very happy. I have never played in such wet and cold conditions, changing towels and gloves so often.”
A good meal
Later, he confessed he would celebrate this with a good meal with his dad Col ML Sharma, coach Jesse Grewal and a few friends. But the bigger celebration will come later.
“I am sure my friends will be calling and congratulating. Making the cut at the Major, which has always been my ‘dream’ Major, is the best present I could have got. But I still have two more rounds to play, if I make the cut,” he said.
Typical of him, Sharma was not getting ahead of himself as he added: “I hope I get in first (at 2-over). Hopefully I will make the cut. It is my favourite Major and I have always wanted to play at an Open.”
The first time
When asked to recall the first time he saw an Open, he said, “The first time was probably 2003 or 2004, but even though I was playing golf even before that, I didn’t know how big the tournament was because no one in my family knew much about golf.”
He went on, “The first Open I can recall vividly is the 2006 edition in Liverpool when Tiger (Woods) won. It was something like here and it was all about players using irons. That is the one I remember clearly and I saw all four rounds.”
Going back to his round, when he was 3-over for the day and 5-over for the tournament, he said: “This is definitely the best finish I have had. At the US Open I was inside the cut line but made a double and a bogey and missed out.
“Here the back 9 is not easy and the last few holes are really tough.
“To get four birdies and play it in 3-under was very satisfying. I am proud of myself.”
On his final hole, as he was 3-over at the tee box, he said: “After the tee shot, I thought I would just par it as many players were yet to finish. I just wanted to put the ball somewhere on the green and 2-putt for par.
“But I hit a brilliant second shot to get to 5-6 feet. My caddie Vicky said it was from the left and I said no way and felt it was straight.
“I could not think much as we were on the clock and I just hit straight and it dropped. It was sweet as it dropped but before that it was nerve-wracking.”
Zach Johnson climbs up
Meanwhile, the 2015 Open champion Zach Johnson climbed up as the clubhouse leader after a splendid 4-under 67 and at 6-under for two rounds.
He was one clear of Tommy Fleetwood, who shot the week’s best of 6-under 65 to get to 5-under. Fleetwood was second at the US Open and is now aiming to go one better.
First round leader Kevin Kisner, looking at keeping the American streak going at Majors, had moved to 7-under, but had played only 13 holes.
Tiger Woods had four birdies and four bogeys in his 71, his second even par round.