Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma sunk in five birdies on the back-nine to card a five-under 67, making a solid start at the CIMB Classic here. The 22-year-old, who was recently bestowed with the Arjuna Award, was in tied 14th place, four shots behind the surprise leader Bronson Burgoon (63) of USA.
A record four Indians are taking part in the only PGA Tour event in Southeast Asia. Fiji International champion Gaganjeet Bhullar was the next best placed Indian — tied 26th at three-under 69.
Anirban Lahiri, who has a good record at TPC Kuala Lumpur in the past, also started well and was three-under par at the turn, but two double bogeys on the back nine saw him finish the day at a disappointing even-par 72 while Rahil Gangjee finished on five-over 77.
The 31-year-old Burgoon ended first day at nine under 63, one ahead of Austin Cook. Burgoon, starting on back nine, had a bogey on the 13th but then played superb golf with eight birdies and an eagle on Par-5 18th, which was his ninth hole. Burgoon was followed by Austin Cook (64) and three players, including CT Pan, Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy, who carded 65 each.
Eight players including 2015 and 2016 champion, Justin Thomas carded 66 each for Tied-6th place. Sharma, who is playing all three PGA Tour events in Asia in these three weeks, started with a birdie but made a three-putt bogey on the second and never got going on the front nine.
It was a different story on the back nine as he made five birdies, and missed chances from less than eight feet on another couple of holes. “The way I played the front nine, I would have been happy to just finish with an under-par score. Things just clicked on the back nine and five-under was really a bonus,” Sharma, who played in all four majors and the four World Golf Championship events this year, said.
“I am very satisfied with the start. But I think I need to shoot at least five-under par on all four days to be in contention. This golf course is gettable and we can see lots of low scores already,” he added.
Bhullar was even-par after eight holes after starting from the 10th tee, and it was a birdie on the 18th hole (his ninth) that kick-started his run. “This is a marathon and I am happy that I have made a steady start. I am playing very well and hit about 15 GIRs. All I have to do is improve upon this score each day,” Bhullar said.