Golf: No mistaking Sharma's identity as one to watch

Leader Shubhankar Sharma is making a name for himself at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Leader Shubhankar Sharma is making a name for himself at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

MEXICO CITY • Phil Mickelson was forgiven for mistaking India's Shubhankar Sharma for a member of the media at the WGC-Mexico Championship on Saturday.

After all, the 21-year-old Indian has been creating headlines during his first PGA Tour event. The Asian Tour Order of Merit leader maintained his two-shot lead at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City after the third round.

He had five birdies and three bogeys en route to a two-under 69. He closed with a tremendous par save at the par-four 18th, calmly rolling in a 15-foot putt for a 13-under total of 200.

That put him two clear of five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson (65), reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia (69), Englishman Tyrrell Hatton (64) and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello (69).

Mickelson enjoyed a blemish-free round but did make one error earlier in the day.

"He thought we were media and he said, 'Not right now, after the round'," Sharma told reporters, laughing as he recalled how he and his caddie Gurbaaz Mann had approached Mickelson on the practice putting green before the round.

"Then he just realised (and said) 'So sorry, I thought you were media'. He said 'Hi'. I said 'Hi'. And then he made a few putts and then he came back to me and said, 'Have a good day'. It was nice."

Sharma is starting to make a name for himself. He already has two European Tour victories this season - in South Africa and Malaysia.

The rising star is so young that Tiger Woods, 42, is too old to be his idol.

Rather, he was inspired by staying up all night to watch Rory McIlroy, 28, win the 2011 US Open.

"It went on until six in the morning back home," Sharma, who turned professional at 16, recalled.

"I remember I was so inspired that I didn't sleep, I just went straight to the range and hit balls for two hours."

Going into the final round, world No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson headed a group on 203 that also included last year's PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, Pat Perez and Brian Harman.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2018, with the headline 'No mistaking Sharma's identity as one to watch'. Print Edition | Subscribe