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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press India's Shubhankar Sharma pumps his fist after teeing off on the 3rd hole Saturday at the Mexico Championship at the Chapultepec Golf Club in in Mexico City. Sharma, a 21-year-old, leads the World Golf Championship event by two shots.

Sunday, March 04, 2018 1:00 am

Golf

21-year-old continues to lead WGC tourney

Associated Press

MEXICO CITY – Shubhankar Sharma stayed up in the middle of the night in India to watch golf at the highest level, usually the majors, and the best players became legends to him.

From the time he arrived in Mexico for his first World Golf Championship, he has been hitting balls on the range next to Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, and on Saturday he worked up the courage to introduce himself to Phil Mickelson on the putting green.

“It just feels like there's a TV in front of me, and I'm actually watching it through a TV,” Sharma said.

Even more surreal? He's beating them.

The 21-year-old from India held his nerve to the end and holed a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Chapultepec Golf Club for a 2-under 69 to give him a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Mexico Championship.

Sharma has one round left to hold off a few of golf's biggest names – starting with Mickelson.

Mickelson played bogey-free for a 65 and will be in the final group for the first time since the British Open two years ago. Joining them will be Tyrrell Hatton of England, who went out in 30 and finished off a 64.

“It's been a long time since my game's been back to this point,” Mickelson said. “I'm back playing some of my best golf again. It will start to click and get better and better as the year goes on.”

Mickelson might have heard about Sharma, the only two-time winner on the European Tour this season.

He just didn't recognize him.

“He thought we were media and he said, 'Not right now. After the round,' ” Sharma said with a smile. “Then he just realized it and said, 'So sorry, I thought you were media.' He said 'Hi,' I said, 'Hi.' Then he made a few putts and he came back to me and said, 'Have a good day.' It was nice.”

Sharma was at 13-under 200 and is one round away from capping an amazing rise.

Just three months ago, he had yet to win a tournament outside of India's developmental circuit. He didn't have a European Tour card. He was No. 462 in the world.

A victory in the World Golf Championship would be his third title in his last eight starts, and likely put him in the top 25.

LPGA: In Singapore, Nelly Korda shot a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead at the LPGA Tour's Women's World Championship after Danielle Kang made her first bogeys of the tournament to slip back into second place after three rounds.

Korda, whose sister Jessica won the LPGA event in Thailand last week, had eight birdies and one bogey as she finished on 15-under 201 heading into the final round at the Sentosa Golf Club.

Kang started the day leading by four strokes and finished trailing Korda by one after a 70.

Brooke Henderson had a bogey-free 65 to match Korda for the low round of the day and join Minjee Lee (68) in a tie for third at 11-under.

PGA CHAMPIONS: In Tucson, Arizona, Steve Stricker lost the Cologuard Classic lead when he drove into the water on the par-5 18th in a closing double bogey.

A year after losing a chance to win the event in his PGA Tour Champions debut when his 3-wood went left into the water on the final hole, Stricker did it again Saturday.

Stricker ended up with a 3-under 70, leaving him a stroke behind Tommy Tolles with a round left on Omni Tucson National's Catalina Course. Tolles saved par on 18 for a 70 after following Stricker into the water.

Tolles had an 11-under 135 total.

EUROPEAN: In Pretoria, South Africa, George Coetzee opened a two-shot lead heading into the final round of the Tshwane Open after a 3-under 68. The overnight leader fired five birdies and two bogeys on the course where he's a member to move to 14 under overall. Mikko Korhonen and Sam Horsfield are tied for second.