Gaganjeet Bhullar waged a terrific battle to make the cut while the talented Shubhankar Sharma had a forgettable week at the inaugural Saudi International on Friday. Ruing a bunch of missed putts at the new Royal Greens Golf Club, where the greens have been rather bumpy and grainy, Bhullar had five bogeys and one birdie in his first nine after starting from the tenth.
He was two-over and outside the cutline but three birdies on back nine kept him for the weekend at Tied-58th. For Sharma, the dismal rounds of 77 and 73 became his undoing as he bowed alongside another Indian Reyhan Thomas (67 and 77) was also shown exit door.
A tenth tee starter Bhullar’s 72 had two contrasting stretches. The first between the 13th and 18th when he dropped four shots in six holes to turn in four-over. He turned his fortunes over on the front nine, his second nine, with birdies on second, fourth and fifth, but dropped a shot in between on third.
Bhullar said: “I hit the ball beautifully, but just didn’t get the putts to fall. It was not the 10-12 footers that were a problem, because they somehow seemed to their find way in after a turn or two, but it was the shorter four and five-footers that were a hassle. They would just veer off after looking to be on the way in.”
He added:”Having just made it to the weekend, a couple of good rounds should help in moving up.”
Sharma on his part said:”I thought a fast start might give me some chance, but it was not to be. I did hit well at times, but by and large nothing went right.”
There was a lot of drama around the top-three. As World No. 3 Dustin Johnson (68-61) crushed the course with a 61 to take sole lead at 11-under, world No 1 Justin Rose (70-72) crashed out while No. 2 Brooks Koepka (69-70) flirted with danger and even found his ball under a rock in the wasteland once. He finally squeezed in to live another two days.
Johnson was three shots clear of South African Zander Lombard (65-67) and Li Haotong (65-67). Fabrizio Zanotti (67-66) and Scott Hend, who had two holes to play were tied for fourth at seven-under.