The Open: Shubhankar T9 after Round 3

On a day when Jon Rahm charged around the Royal Liverpool Golf Club like a Toro Bravo let loose, India’s Shubhankar Sharma was a picture of consistency and remained in touch with the leaders mid-way through the third round of the 151st Open Championship.

India’s Shubhankar Sharma tees off on the 8th hole during the third round.(REUTERS)

When the leaders made the turn in Saturday’s third round, American Brian Harman retained his spot on top of the leaderboard without adding anything to his overnight score of 10-under par. But the gloomy weather at the coastside Wirral town – morning rain softened the golf course and the wind never picked up any more than a gentle breeze – made it ideal conditions for Spain’s world No.3 Rahm to tear it apart.

Rahm put together a round of eight-under par 63, making up for all his disappointments over the first two days when he could do no better than a two-over par total. The uber-aggressive Rahm made the most of the conditions and jumped 37 places to tied second at six-under par.

The leaders were not making much of a move, but some of the players who teed off in the middle of the day did. Norway’s Viktor Hovland (66) and Frenchman Antoine Rozner (67) were tied at five-under par, while Alex Fitzpatrick, the younger brother of 2022 US Open champion Matt, showed his class with a 65 that moved him to four-under par.

Pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy could not take advantage of the mostly benign conditions and finished the round at two-under par to be three-under for the tournament.

Sharma started the day by pulling his tee shot way left and saved a stunning par. He was solid throughout and was two-under par for the round through 14 holes. (He finished 1-under 70 to be tied 9th, at 4-under par for the tournament).

That two shots he picked up came at one go – thanks to a sublime eagle putt from 36 feet on the par-5 fifth hole. It was a long left-to-right curling lag putt that was judged to perfection as the ball dropped in with the last roll.

The man who turned 27 on Friday, was giving himself a lot of birdie looks, but most of them were from outside the 30-feet radius.

It was quintessential Rahm on display – all fired up, eye glowering and ultra-aggressive. He started with four straight pars, which was annoying, before making the turn at two-under par. On the back nine, with most of the holes playing downwind, he made a killing with six birdies.

“I hit a great putt, lipped out on one, good putt on two, and good putts on three and four and finally made the putt on fifth. Those early holes that felt like scorable holes the first few days because of the wind conditions, were a little bit more difficult,” said Rahm.

“But it was starting on 11 when everything became downwind and it became a lot easier. The wind condition is what made the course change a little bit.

“It’s my lowest round on a links course and it’s an Open Championship. Also the lowest round shot on this course. It feels really good, but it’s a lot of work to do tomorrow.”

Hovland started with a birdie but gave up the advantage immediately by dropping a shot on the next. But he was solid thereafter and made five birdies coming in.

“A nice start and was a little disappointed to bogey the next. I knew the conditions were out there and we could score, but I was very happy about not bogeying a single hole after that,” said the world No.5, winner of the Memorial Tournament earlier this year.

“My putter heated up, so it was nice to take advantage of some of the nice iron shots that I hit in there.”

Fitzpatrick finished with two birdies in his 65, moving two shots ahead of his more famous sibling.

“It was a super special round. I’m not familiar with this environment and the amount of people out here, but me and my caddie had a great time out there and things went our way, which was super cool. Just a bit lost for words really,” said Fitzpatrick.

“There will be no rivalry or anything like that. We’re brothers at the end of the day as much as we’re golfers. I root for him and he roots for me. We’re both supporting each other, and we both want what’s best for each other.”

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