Golf: Smith, Sharma put McIlroy in the shade


Spectators flocked in their thousands to the Irish Open golf tournament played at the K9 Golf Club in Kildare to see their Irish hero Rory McIlroy in action, but then two unsung players from England and India took the spotlight away from him.

The Englishman Jordan Smith, who is ranked 85th in the world, and the Indian Shubhankar Sharma, who is only ranked 183rd, lead together on 131 strokes, which is 13 strokes less than the par.

Sharma was the lone leader in the clubhouse for a long time after he scored five birdies and an eagle in his second round of 66 shots early in the morning. But he was overtaken on Friday afternoon by Smith, who made eight birdies over the first 15 holes and finished at 65.

Ross Fisher of England is second on 132 (-12) after scoring consecutive 66 shots in perfect, warm weather conditions.

He is followed by Hurly Long from Germany (134, -11) who alone occupies the fourth position.

McIlroy, who shot 70 in the first round, followed that up with a 69 in the second round. He won the tournament in 2016, when it was last decided at the K9 Club. But he will have to raise his level of play to do so again this year, as he is in joint 26th position at 139 (-5).

Among the South Africans, Thriston Lawrence scored an excellent 65 shots in the second round and is joint tenth on 137 shots (-7).

Louis de Jager (139, -5), Zander Lombard and Erik van Rooyen (both 141, -3) and Hennie du Plessis (142, -2) also made their voices heard.

* In the US LPGA Series’ Queen City Championship to be decided at Kendale Country Club in Cincinatti, Taiwan’s Peyun Chien is four shots ahead of China’s Ruixin Liu and Ruoing Yin on 130 strokes (-14) and Morgane Metraux of Switzerland after the second round.

Chien shot 64 in the second round after shooting 66 in the first round.

Yuka Saso of Japan and Charley Hull of England are joint fifth at 135 (-9), with Dane Emily Kristine Pederson, Linnea Strom of Sweden, Nasa Hataoka of Japan, Peronne Delacour (France) and MinJee Lee (Australia) joint at 136 (-8).

South Africa’s Paula Reto (139, -5) is firmly placed, but Ashleigh Buhai 144 (74, 70) could not qualify for the last two rounds.