Friday, 09 March 2018
Shubhankar Sharma and Andrew Johnston  (Getty Images)
Shubhankar Sharma and Andrew Johnston (Getty Images)

Andrew Johnston fired a brilliant 66 to get within five shots of the lead on day two of the Hero Indian Open but admitted that looked pedestrian compared to the efforts of playing partner Shubhankar Sharma.

DLF Golf and Country Club is one of the toughest courses the players face on the European Tour and when Johnston holed an excellent slippery putt on the last to confirm a six under par effort, that was just one shot higher than the course record.

Just moments later it was two, however, as Sharma made a birdie of his own to complete a back nine of 30 and a remarkable 64 that put him within four of halfway leader Emiliano Grillo.

Sharma's rise has been meteoric this season with two wins putting him top of the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex and Johnston was full of praise for his young playing partner.

"It was a good day," he said. "Played lovely all day and it looked pretty average compared to my playing partner.

"Shubhankar is great to play with, he’s such a nice bloke. We got on really well. I said next time he’s over in London I’ll take him out to dinner.

"I can’t believe he’s only 21. The head on him is amazing, and his attitude.

"He’s come back from whatever score he was on, three or four over, to that. It’s incredible, so hats off to him. Very impressive."

As for his own efforts, Johnston was delighted with his discipline and believes patience will be key if he is to claim a second European Tour win over the weekend.

"I hit some nice shots," he said. "I was sensible, tried to hit it in the right areas. If I was going to miss one, miss it on the right side of the flag, and that’s been the key really for the past two days.

"I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing. Just stay patient, keep hitting it into the right sections, into the greens, keep hitting fairways and keep holing putts. I’ve got to stay patient.

"It’s punishing here, if you don’t play well you’re going to struggle so I think it really evens the field out."

Pablo Larrazábal signed for a 71 to sit alongside Johnston at six under and he is relishing the challenge of taking on Grillo and what he considers to be the toughest layout of the year.

"I played great," he said. "This is the toughest golf course we play. Red numbers are awesome.

"It’s not the same going in six behind or five behind the leader. We all know that Grillo is a super, top-class player. He should be in the top 20 in the world. He doesn’t know how good he is. I like to go and play against the best in the world and he is one. I’m ready for the challenge.

"The golf course will be at least one or two shots tougher over the weekend. There are some tough flags out there and they will move a couple of tees back.

"I’m ready for the challenge. I love the challenge. I love to go over the weekend and attack this tough golf course and see what’s going on."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1WALLACE, MattENG18-11
2JOHNSTON, AndrewENG18-11
3KIM, SihwanUSA18-8
T4SCHWAB, MatthiasAUT18-7
6GRILLO, EmilianoARG18-5

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