Sharma on song to keep control in Mexico

Updated / Sunday, 4 Mar 2018 10:38

Shubhankar Sharma

India's Shubhankar Sharma remains on course to claim a remarkable third win in eight events in the WGC-Mexico Championship after holding onto his lead at Chapultepec Golf Club.

Sharma was outside the world's top 450 when he won the Joburg Open in December, but proved that was no fluke with a second European Tour title in the Maybank Championship in Malaysia last month.

Those victories took the 21-year-old to the top of the Race to Dubai and secured a World Golf Championship debut in Mexico City, where an elite 64-man field is competing for a winner's cheque of €1.34m from a total prize fund of €8m.

And after opening rounds of 65 and 66 gave Sharma a two-shot lead at the halfway stage, he added a third round of 69 to finish 13 under par, two ahead of Masters champion Sergio Garcia, five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, Tyrrell Hatton and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

The world number 75 described playing in the tournament as a "dream come true".

He said: "I'm really happy with the way I played today, stuck in there. (I) obviously made a few mistakes on the greens but the greens are tough this week so I think everyone's making a few mistakes. So I wasn't too hard on myself. (I'm) very, very happy that I could grind out a par on the last hole.

"Tomorrow will be a lot of fun. Obviously Phil is a legend in the game of golf and I've seen him on TV for as many years as I can remember. I met him for the first time today and it's great that I'm paired with him tomorrow."

Paul Dunne needed to win this tournament or finish as the standalone runner-up to push himself into the world's top 50 and guarantee a spot at the Masters in April.

However the Greystones man was 17 shots off Sharma coming into the third round and, though a 72 was his best round of the weekend so far, he is now 20 off the pace on seven-over-par.

Hatton had been suffering from a bout of food poisoning earlier in the week but the world number 16 showed no ill effects as he raced to the turn in 30, chipped in for a birdie on the 12th and almost repeated the trick for an eagle on the 15th.

"I definitely feel better, it was only an issue Wednesday night really and the Imodium has helped a lot," Hatton told Sky Sports after a flawless 64.

"I got off to a good start, felt comfort with my game and was five under through nine which I was over the moon with.

"I felt like I lost my swing a little on the back nine but overall if you said I was going to shoot seven under at the start of the day I'd have been buzzing so very happy with that."

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Mickelson, 47, who has not tasted victory since the 2013 Open at Muirfield, also did not drop a shot in his 65, while the Spanish pair of Garcia and Cabrera Bello both shot 69.

Defending champion and world number one Dustin Johnson is three shots off the pace on 10 under par alongside Pat Perez, Xander Schauffele and Brian Harman, with world number two Justin Thomas another stroke adrift.

Thomas, who is seeking back-to-back wins after victory in the Honda Classic on Sunday, was 11 shots off the pace at the start of the day but fired eight birdies and an eagle in a course record of 62.