India’s Shubhankar Sharma shot a superb six-under 66, which was laced with eight birdies, to be placed tied third at the end of the first day of Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
It is his last chance to grab a PGA Tour card and he will likely need a sole sixth place to join Anirban Lahiri, who has already assured himself a card.
Lahiri had to withdraw and rush home following the news of Hurricane Dorian’s expected landfall at Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday.
“We need to evacuate and I have decided to rush back home and do that,” said Lahiri.
He also tweeted, “Unfortunately had to withdraw from @tourchampulf to head back to Florida and evacuate the family. Cat-4 #HurricaneDorian2019 estimated to make landfall in 72hrs. See you all @PGATOUR in a couple of weeks. #familyfirst.”
Four years ago, Lahiri skipped the last two events of the Korn Ferry Finals, because after making sure of his card, he decided to spend two weeks preparing for the 2015 President’s Cup.
Sharma, who was sharing room with Lahiri this week, said, “He decided only in the morning to get back home. Obviously because of hurricane hitting Palm Beach. He made the right decision and he has made his card.
“It was understandable and he was concerned about the family, too. And, now it is all up to me and I will do my best and join him on the PGA Tour.”
As for his first round, Sharma said, “I have decided to put no pressure on myself. I had no expectations and so no pressure. The last two weeks were not the way I expected, but I suppose in golf you have to stay in the moment and that’s what I told myself.
“If I do well in this event great, if not I still have Europe (European Tour). So, literally, I went with no expectations and I am going to do pretty much the same next three days.”
His longest putt was from 30 feet on par-3 16th. He birdied first and fifth and then dropped a shot on seventh. But birdies on eighth and ninth saw him turn in three-under.
On the back nine, he started with a birdie on Par-5 10th and added more on 13th, 15th and 16th and in between bogeyed par-4 14th for a day’s total of 66.
Sharma missed the cut in each of the two previous Korn Ferry Tour Finals events and this season he has made seven cuts in seven starts on the PGA TOUR.
It includes a best of T-10 at the CIMB Classic in October, 2018 and his other Top-25 finish was at Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where he was tied 22 with Lahiri.
Meanwhile, Chris Baker, after finishing one spot outside of the 25 in Portland and failing to earn a PGA TOUR card, opened with a opening-round 9-under 63 to take a one-stroke lead in Tour Championship.
His effort of 63 tied a course record at Victoria National Golf Club. He hit all 18 greens in regulation and 13 out of 14 fairways off of the tee.
Joseph Bramlett holed out for eagle at the par-5 ninth to finish his round at 8-under 64 to draw within one stroke of the lead.
Sharing the third place with Sharma is Julián Etulain.
This week marks the concluding event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.