Sharma and Bhullar stay afloat in Dubai, as ‘Mad Scientist’ DeChambeau takes the lead

Sat 26 Jan 2019

Sharma and Bhullar stay afloat in Dubai, as ‘Mad Scientist’ DeChambeau takes the lead


By V. Krishnaswamy in Dubai

Dubai, Jan 26: Shubhankar Sharma alternated between birdies and bogeys for the better part of the day, while Gaganjeet Bhullar kept looking good despite not scoring as he should have at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. 

Still, Bhullar carded three-under-par 69 to move 18 places up and Sharma had a 70 and gained eight places as both were tied-38th at six-under-par each.

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States

Bryson DeChambeau, called the "Mad Scientist" in golf, has all his irons and wedges cut to the same length of 37.5 inches to suit his own theories on the game. On Saturday, he converted a round that seemed to be going the wrong way following back-to-back bogeys on seventh and eighth at which point he was one-over for the day. He holed five birdies in the last 10 holes for a card of four-under 68 and took sole lead at 16-under-par.

Defending champion Li Haotong attempting to become only the second back-to-back winner in Desert Classic after Scotsman Stephen Gallacher did in 2014, shot a third 67 to get to 15-under-par after a birdie-birdie finish.

They were followed by the 49-year-old veteran Ernie Els, who did not get frustrated despite missing numerous birdie putts and finishing two-under-par 70 with two birdies and no bogeys. At 13-under he was tied for third with the 2018 Hero Indian Open winner, Matt Wallace, who shot 69 after 70-64 on first two days.

Apart from Els, an Asian Tour Honorary Member and International Ambassador, who stayed in contention to extend his record of three Desert Classic titles to four, Sharma and Bhullar were the best placed Asian Tour members.

Tied with Sharma and Bhullar was South African Justin Harding (72), while Thongchai Jaidee (74), who as tied-second on the first day, dropped to tied-51st, as did Scott Hend (75). Australian Wade Ormsby also slipped dramatically from tied-14th to tied-61st as he shot 77 to drop to three-under-par 219. Kurt Kitayama (75) also fell 20 placed to tied-67th.

Sharma and Bhullar leave a lot of shots out there

Though the two Indians shot their third straight sub-par round of the week, both felt they left a lot out there. For Sharma, his driving not was not on the spot on Friday and on Saturday, he made a couple of avoidable mistakes and twice went into the water, once from the middle of the way.

In the case of Bhullar, he kept feeling he was playing fine but not scoring. Lip outs and the ball stopping on the edge have been his story.

Sharma birdied the third but it was neutralized by a bogey on sixth and it was the third successive day he had dropped a shot on the hole. Then, back-to-birdies on seventh and eighth were undone by the double bogey on ninth, where the ball slid back into the water. The trend continued on the back nine as he birdied 10th and bogeyed 11th and the birdied 12th only to bogey 13th. Fortunately, he birdied the 15th and the 18th for a 70.

Sharma also rued giving away the bogey on 13th, where also the ball rolled back from the green into the water. “It was a frustrating day. Going into the water and giving away the hard-earned birdies was really painful,” admitted Sharma.

For the second straight day, Bhullar bogeyed the first but got it back on second. He warily treaded past the rest of the front nine before earning birdies on 10th and 12th, but dropped a shot on 13th only to get back a birdie on15th. He should have had a birdie on the drive-able par-four 17th, but did not though he closed with a birdie on 18th.

“I should be scoring better on the par-fives and lately I have done on par-threes, too. So the two together should fetch me decent totals, but they have not,” said Bhullar. “Hopefully another day tomorrow and then next week in Saudi, I need to get in something good.”

Els continues to surprise all

The surprise of the week continued as the veteran of 16 Desert Classics, Els. Even if he does not win the event, a top-10 would get him his 300th top-10 finish in nearly 800 professional starts.

The leaderboard was tightly bunched behind Els and Wallace at 12-under-par, as four players, including Lucas Herbert, who courted disaster and a two-shot penalty on par-five third after he was deemed to have improved his lie by removing impediments behind the ball. It meant a double bogey, but he fought back with four straight birdies from the 10th. He, however, had two more bogeys on 16th and 18th in his 72.

Also at 12-under-par was Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, a past winner here, but now ranked 418th in the world. He finished with a double bogey, hitting his second shot into the water. He had six other birdies and three bogeys.

Three more players were at 11-under-par and seven others were 10-under-par, including 2017 European Tour number one Tommy Fleetwood (68) and 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia (70).