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    Golf roundup

    Only 21, Shubhankar Sharma makes splash in WGC debut

    India's Shubhankar Sharma tees off on the 7th hole during the second round of the Mexico Championship at the Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City, Friday, March 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
    Eduardo Verdugo/Associated press
    Shubhankar Sharma tees off on the seventh hole during the second round of the Mexico Championship in Mexico City.

    Shubhankar Sharma hit a 3-wood that landed on the green and settled 2 feet away for an eagle on the opening hole of the Mexico Championship in Mexico City. He finished with three straight birdies for a 5-under-par 66. And, in his first World Golf Championship, he takes a two-shot lead into the weekend.

    ‘‘I worked all my life to come and play at a high stage like this,’’ said Sharma, who turned pro when he was 16 years old.

    ‘‘You have to expect great things from yourself if you want to play at a high stage. I just try and not think of anything before I start. I just try and concentrate on the success, and just let things go.’’


    Sharma, 21, overcame a pair of three-putt bogeys early in his round and was at 11-under 131.

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    Masters champion Sergio Garcia had a 65 and was two shots behind, along with Xander Schauffele (66) and Rafa Cabrera Bello (67).

    Sharma had such control over his game that he putted for birdie on every hole except the par-4 eighth, where he escaped from the trees into a bunker, blasted out to 12 feet, and saved par.

    He shot 31 on the back, finishing with a gap wedge he hammered to 10 feet for a final birdie, and he walked off the green to a big ovation.

    Russell Knox is the only other player to win a World Golf Championship in his debut, at the 2015 HSBC Champions in Shanghai.


    Ten players were within four shots of the lead going into the weekend, a group that includes defending champion Dustin Johnson, who holed a wedge from 112 yards for eagle on the ninth hole and shot a 66. He was in the large group at 7-under 135.

    ‘‘My favorite thing about that is I didn’t have to putt,’’ Johnson said.

    LPGA — The distraction of a chipped tooth proved to be no problem for Danielle Kang as she shot an 8-under 64 to take a four-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Women’s World Championship in Singapore.

    Kang, who won last year’s Women’s PGA Championship for her first major title, equaled the record at Sentosa Golf Club to lead at 12-under 132.

    ‘‘Never too bad to tie a course record,’’ Kang said. ‘‘That’s interesting to hear. I like that.’’


    Nelly Korda, whose sister Jessica won the LPGA event in Thailand last week, had a 66 to tie for second with fellow American Alex Marina (67) while Minjee Lee (66), Cristie Kerr (67), and Chella Choi (69) were another stroke back at 7 under.

    Kang, who discovered she had broken a tooth after falling asleep while stretching before shooting a 68 in Thursday’s opening round, had eight birdies, four on the front nine, to post her second straight bogey-free round.

    Kang said her cracked tooth was not painful, but she could still feel it each time she swung the club.

    ‘‘Every time I hit a shot, I'm like, it keeps scratching — it’s raw here, but it’s OK. I just don’t chew on this side. I'll be fine,’’ she said.

    ‘‘My dentist told me, I've chipped another one before, and he said, ‘You don’t break it at that moment'. It’s been broken and it just chips off. So I don’t know how it broke.’’

    Jessica Korda (70) reached the halfway point at 6-under, level with Austin Ernst (67), Lizette Salas (67), Charley Hull (68), and Ha Na Jang (68), while several other big names lost ground.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng finished at 4-under after a second consecutive 70 while Michelle Wie lost ground with a 73 and overnight leader Jennifer Song stumbled with a 75, including a quadruple-bogey eight on the par-4 third.

    European — George Coetzee shot a second-round 64 on the course he grew up playing on to lead the Tshwane Open by one at the midway mark in Pretoria, South Africa.

    Coetzee made six birdies on the back nine and seven overall to go to 11 under overall, jump six places up the leaderboard, and move ahead of Felipe Aguilar (67) and Mikko Korhonen (64).

    Coetzee, a native of Pretoria and once a regular at the Pretoria Country Club, is seeking a fourth European title and his second at the Tshwane Open after winning in 2015.

    He put himself in a strong position with four straight birdies over Nos. 12-15 and two more on 17 and 18 in his 7-under round.

    Aguilar had an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys. Like Coetzee, Korhonen also finished strong with five birdies in his last seven. Aguilar and Korhonen were 10 under.

    Champions — In Tucson, Ariz., Scott Dunlap and Tommy Tolles topped the Cologuard Classic leaderboard at 8-under 65, with Steve Stricker a stroke back in a bid for his first Champions title.

    Dunlap closed his bogey-free round with birdies on par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. Tolles birdied the par-4 18th for a share of the lead. He also had a bogey-free day.

    Stricker played the four par-5s in 5 under, with an eagle on the second and three birdies. He finished second last year in his senior debut. The 12-time PGA Tour winner tied for second two weeks in Florida in the Chubb Classic, his fifth top-three finish in seven career senior starts.

    University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small matched Stricker at 66.

    Gene Sauers opened with a 67, and Bernhard Langer, Billy Mayfair, and Woody Austin shot 68. Langer birdied three of the last four holes. The 60-year-old German star won seven times last season, three of the victories in majors.

    Defending champion Tom Lehman, playing alongside Stricker, had a 71.

    Len Mattiace also shot 71 in his senior debut. The two-time PGA Tour winner turned 50 in October.

    John Daly was last in the 78-player field with an 80. He had one birdie, six bogeys, and a double bogey on the par-5 15th.