06 May 2021: In the midst of a prolonged slump, Shubhankar Sharma made a rocky start to his first round in the Canary Islands Championship. A double bogey five on the par-3 tenth wasn’t an ideal place to be on a day of low scores around him. The Indian bounced back in style though as he made five birdies in the next eight holes to make the turn in 33 strokes. Eventually, birdies at the sixth and seventh helped the 25-year-old come through in four-under 67. SSP Chawrasia made a 68 while Shiv Kapur and Gaganjeet Bhullar shot 69.
Francesco Laporta was sailing smoothly, taking just 30 strokes on the forward nine, before a bogey on the tenth threatened to upend his march. But he bounced back with renewed energy as he shot an eagle on the eleventh and three straight birdies to punch his way to the top of the leaderboard.
Laporta was happy with his performance. “It was one of those days when everything goes in the right direction. I started thinking about 59 also when I was nine under through 14. On 17 I was putting for birdie from five metres. I was thinking ‘just make this and go for eagle on the last’. I wasn’t so lucky on the last hole, my drive went into the trees. But I’m still nine under so I’m pretty happy about the round.
“I saw this scores this morning with Rhys Enoch, who was eight under after eight and I knew the course would give us lots of chances to make birdies. You start to feel a bit of pressure when you start to think about a 59, but then you just need to concentrate on your game and try to do your best.”
Scott Fernandez was lying second, just one back. He made four straight birdies to close his round and surge up the order. His 63 contained seven birdies and an eagle at the par-5 eleventh hole.
Fernandez said, “I just stuck to it. The moment the round changed for me was on 11, I holed a nice bunker shot, it was perfect. That kind of got me going. It was tricky on the back nine with the wind, a few shots were hard to judge with the upslope. I was just trying every time to pick a good number and hit the target. Came in with a few nice shots.
“The front nine is kind of tricky right next to the ocean, you get all the wind. But hey, we’ve been playing here for more than a week now. I missed the cut by one last week, had a nice practice over the weekend and worked pretty hard, got a bit of rest, nice practice rounds Monday and Tuesday. Those little things just add up.”
Adri Arnaus, Alfredo Garcia-Heredia and Joel Stalter plotted their way to a good start too. All three men made 64, sitting two behind the leader. As many as ten men made 65. Among them were Justin Harding and Kalle Samooja.
“I played pretty solid to be fair. You’ve got to take advantage of the par fives around here. I hit two poor shots into two of them and didn’t get it up and down. But that’s kind of the nature of the golf course. If you leave it on the wrong side of the hole it becomes a bit tricky. Case in point was nine (his 18th). I hate to finish with a bogey, but at the end of the day I didn’t get it over the ridge,” explained Harding of the stroke he lost on the last hole.
“I feel like I’ve got good control over my game. I can take on some different shots when I feel like it’s necessary. It’s safe to say I’m a fair-weather golfer – I didn’t do very well in Austria, didn’t enjoy that whatsoever. Just trying to give myself as many opportunities as I can and hopefully roll in a couple of putts,” he added.
“It’s a different dynamic, but at the same time I kind of like playing here the second week. You’ve had four rounds on the golf course, you should know, more or less, how to play it by now. Ultimately you just go about your business and see if you can potentially improve on last week’s result. Try to play each hole a little better than you did the day before.”
Chawrasia also got off to a bogey on the tenth, but three birdies in the next four holes helped him steady his boat. A bogey on the second was buttressed between birdies on either side as he came through taking 34 strokes on each side for his 68.
Birdies on the 17th and 18th helped Shiv Kapur sail through his first nine holes at two-under. That is where he would end the day, exchanging shots at the third and fourth on his way to a 69.
Bhullar was two-under through the first five holes but he was undone by bogeys on the 6th and 8th holes. Undeterred, the Indian secured birdies on the eleventh and thirteenth holes, returning to two-under with a 69 to his name.
Ajeetesh Sandhu negated three bogeys on his card, including two in his first three holes, to stay even for the day. He shot 71 with birdies on the fifteenth, third and seventh holes.
Data Golf is projecting the cut line to fall around 4-under or thereabouts, which means that all five Indians have to continue ploughing on Friday for safety.