Shubhankar’s solid 70 places him T-19 at WGC-Mexico

Last year Shubhankar finished tied ninth at the USD 10.25 million tournament.

Shubhankar Sharma placed tied 19th after the first round of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.   -  GETTY IMAGES

India’s Shubhankar Sharma made two nice birdies over the last four holes to ensure a solid start with a score of one-under 70 to be placed tied 19th after the first round of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.

Shubhankar, 22, who catapulted into global fame by leading after 54 holes on his PGA Tour debut at the 2018 edition, is now tied 19th on a day, when Rory McIlroy (63) and Dustin Johnson (64) pulled themselves well clear of the field at the Par-71 Chapultepec Golf Club.

Last year Shubhankar finished tied ninth at the USD 10.25 million tournament.

Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat produced his best opening round of the year on the PGA TOUR, carding a three-under 68 for a share of the seventh spot.

Kiradech traded five birdies against two bogeys to trail first round leader McIlroy, who enjoyed a blistering 63 featuring an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey.

China’s Haotong Li dropped two late bogeys to settle for a 69, leaving him in tied 11th, while Shubhankar had a roller-coaster day with four birdies against three bogeys.

Shubhankar bombed some big drives around 350-yards and over and hit 13 of the 18 greens in regulation.

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He had a nice start on the 387-yard par-4 second, where he drove 349 yards and chipped his second shot to two feet for a one-putt birdie.

But on the very next hole, the 186-yard par-3 third, Shubhankar’s tee shot went 197 yards to the right rough and he hit his second shot to about nine yards from the stick from where he chipped to two feet and rolled in a two footer for a bogey.

Shubhankar turned in one-over after going into the greenside bunker with his second shot. He reached the green in three but two putted from almost 70 feet for a bogey.

On the monster 622-yard Par-5 11th, he hit a 351-yard drive and chipped his third shot to three feet for a birdie to get to even par.

On the 225-yard par-3 13th, Shubhankar’s tee shot went 189 yards to the right rough from where he got a drop. His chip went nearly 50 feet, but he rolled well to get to five feet but missed the par putt to go one-over.

He got back on the 575-yard par-5 15th hole, where he reached the green in three and sunk a five-foot putt for a birdie to get back to par.

On the Par-4 388-yard finishing hole, Shubhankar had a 154-yard approach shot and he got to inside seven feet for a birdie and a card of 70.

Starting on the back nine, McIlroy was four-under for his first nine and then came close to a hole-in-one on the Par-4 10th and holed an eagle from six feet.

McIlroy had seven birdies and an eagle and a bogey when he went into rough first and then the cart path on Par-5 sixth.

On the Par-4 first, where McIlroy had a near hole in one, Tiger Woods hit out-of-bounds with his first shot in Mexico, where he is playing for the first time.

Woods’ opening tee shot off a 5-wood landed on the green but it was the wrong green, a temporary green from where it bounced to the left and beyond the out-of-bounds stake into the bushes.

Woods started with the double bogey but three birdies in a row from fourth settled him before he bogeyed the eighth from close. On the back nine he bogeyed 13th and birdied 15th for a 71 to be placed tied 25th.

Justin Thomas, who lost in a playoff last year to Phil Mickelson, chipped in from 50 feet behind the green on No. 15 for eagle in his 66. He was tied with Matt Kuchar, who has already won in Mexico this season at the Mayakoba Classic.