Shubhankar Sharma sizzles in hot K Club sun to take early Irish Open lead

Mark Power enjoyed a brilliant start to his professional career when he added a 71 to his opening 68

Shubhankar Sharma on the 11th tee during day two of the 2023 Horizon Irish Open at The K Club. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Shubhankar Sharma is more accustomed than most to the Indian summer heatwave conditions which have blessed the Horizon Irish Open at The K Club in Straffan, Co Kildare; and the 27-year-old – a two-timer DP World Tour winner – followed an opening 65 with a route 66 to for a midway total of 13-under-par 131 to strengthen his position atop the leaderboard.

And, indeed, Sharma seemed to be playing a different course to everyone else when needing just 28 strokes for his front nine. If, briefly, there seemed to be a prospect of a sub-60 round on the Palmer North Course, he proved to be only human with a bogey on the 10th as his slowed down on the homeward journey.

Still, it was another impressive performance from Sharma – who had a career best finish in a Major when tied-eighth behind Brian Harman in the 151st Open at Hoylake in July – who claimed the clubhouse lead, four shots clear of Germany’s Freddy Schott who helped himself to nine birdies in a round of 64 for 135.

Mark Power, too, enjoyed a brilliant start to his professional career when he added a 71 to his opening 68 to reach the 36-holes point on five-under-par 139 to be guaranteed to make the cut.

READ MORE

The 23-year-old Kilkenny golfer – who turned pro after playing in the Walker Cup match for Britain and Ireland against the United States last Sunday – had one bogey through his opening two rounds, which came on the 17th – his eighth hole of the second round – where he three-putted but bounced back immediately with a birdie on the 18th, a 12 footer which brought with it a fisted pump into the air.

“I’m just trying to take it all in, getting a start at my home open as my first professional event is crazy, I couldn’t have dreamt of anything better and to play the way I have, I haven’t had my best, but my iron play has really been good and it has given me a lot of chances to score. I have only had one bogey over two rounds and it has been pretty stress-free to be honest,” said Power.

For both Pádraig Harrington and Tom McKibbin, it was a case of hoping and waiting to see if they would survive the cutline.

Harrington’s putting was much improved in a 69 for 142 while McKibbin – playing in the same group – posted a 70 to join him on 142, two-under-par.

According to his post-round maths, Harrington felt that gave them a 79 per cent chance of making the cut. But only after a long wait.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times