Sports

Sharma, Bhullar tee off with world-class field in the final leg of Middle East swing in Saudi

V Krishnaswamy | Updated on January 29, 2020 Published on January 29, 2020

Shubhankar Sharma with his bag

There was a spring in Shubhankar Sharma’s walk, as he twirled his new driver and used it first at the range and then Pro-Am. The big club that he was expecting arrived here and he was happy with it at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), which is just over 100 km from Jeddah.

Also in the field is Gaganjeet Bhullar, who dropped after seeming to be doing well last week in Dubai.

In 2019, when the event was held for the first time, Sharma missed the cut with rounds of 77-73, while Bhullar had rounds of 68-72-66-70 and finished T34.

Sharma talking of his new driver said, “I tried it, and I liked it at the Pro-Am. Hopefully, I will find more fairways and better results.”

The 23-year-old, who played the event last year in its inaugural edition, also mentioned that the course had matured and was playing great. “The greens are great, and the trees have grown. Last year the greens seemed a bit grainy as they were new, but now they are smooth.”

The wind will also be a factor, especially around the stretch that goes along the gorgeous Red Sea and the 16thand 17thin particular with the sea in the background is spectacular. “It is also a challenge and getting the ball to the green on (Par-3) 16thwill be key,” said Sharma.

Sharma will go out in the afternoon on the first day alongside

Bhullar will be in the first group to go out on Thursday alongside Malaysian Gavin Green and Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, while Sharma plays in the afternoon with China’s Wu Ashun, who was leading after 54 holes in Dubai last week, and Mikko Korhonen of Finland.

On the current three-week Middle East swing, Sharma made the cut at Abu Dhabi and finished T59 and missed the cut in Dubai. Bhullar missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and finished T50 in Dubai.

The field is extremely strong with a string of Major champions, including four-time Major winner and World No. 1, Brooks Koepka, the reigning Open champion, Shane Lowry, 2016 US Open winner and World No. 5 and defending champion, Dustin Johnson, the 2016 Open winner, Henrik Stenson, the 2017 Masters winner, Sergio Garcia and 2018 Masters winner, Patrick Reed. Five-time Major winner, Phil Mickelson, who is turning 50 this year and three-time Major winner, Ernie Els, who finished second on Champions (Seniors) Tour debut recently, the two-time Major winner, Martin Kaymer, and the 2010 US Open winner, Graeme McDowell add to the list of Major winners present this week.

Proven stars like Lee Westwood, winner in Abu Dhabi 10 days ago, Lucas Herbert, last week’s winner in Dubai, China’s Li Haotong, who lost narrowly to Dustin Johnson here in Saudi last year, Ian Poulter, who finished sixth in last year's tournament, Bernd Wiesberger, winner of two Rolex Series events in 2019, and the Spanish stars Adri Arnaus, Pablo Larrazabal and Rafa Cabrera Bello. Then there is also the 2018 Ryder Cup-winning Captain Thomas Bjorn.

Published on January 29, 2020
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