Sports

Shubhankar finds touch with stunning 64, rises 20 places to qualify for South Africa

V Krishnaswamy Antalya | Updated on November 10, 2019 Published on November 10, 2019

Golfer Shubhankar Sharma during practice   -  REUTERS

A chip-in for an eagle from 35 yards in the fourth hole fired up Shubhankar Sharma in the final round of the Turkish Airlines Open at Montgomerie Maxx on Sunday. That eagle came after he had missed two birdies chances in the first three holes. But from there the 23-year-old soared with six more birdies for a second bogey free eight-under 64 and finished at 18-under and Tied-seventh, equalling his best of the season.

Sharma, struggling with his results till some weeks ago, was 113thin the Race to Dubai before the Italian Open, where he logged his first Top-10 since Hong Kong last year.

“Around the Italian my goal was just to get to the Final Three with Turkey first. The Top-10 (seventh) in Italy and two other decent finishes in France and Portugal just about got me to Turkey. My next goal was to get into next week (South Africa) and now I want to do well to get Top-50 and Dubai,” said Sharma, who jumps 20 places to 61stto make the field in Nedbank Challenge.

“Getting to South Africa is great. I have happy memories, having won in Joburg. I love Johannesburg with Indian food, so I wont starve,” he laughed and said.

Sharma needs to get into Top-50 to play the season-ending DP World Tour Championships in Dubai.

His second 64 of the week meant he had 26 birdies, the second highest in the field, besides an eagle. He finished as clubhouse leader, but ahead of him was a tight leaderboard.

Matthias Schwab, looking for his maiden European Tour win, started with a three-shot lead, butt saw it being whittled down to one and finally nil as five others American Kurt Kitayama (64); South African Erik Van Rooyen (65); Victor Perez (65); Tyrell Hatton (67); and Benjamin Hebert caught up at 20-under.

Van Rooyen, Hebert and Perez were eliminated first as Kitayama, Hatton and Schwab birdied first time to extend the play-off on Par-5 18th. The second time all three missed their birdie putts in the second play-off hole sending it to the third extra hole.

Meanwhile, Sharma happy to have found his form at least at the end of the season seemed to benefit from his coach, Jesse Grewal’s presence. He also seems to be settling in with his caddie, Dean Smith.

Sharma did not want to look at the dropped shots between fifth and seven in the first and third rounds with regret. He dropped two doubles and two bogeys between those holes.

“No I can’t look back and regret those. Maybe that fired me up on second day; maybe that’s (the third round) pushed me today. When I was four-over after seven yesterday (Round 3) and down to five-under and in the 40s, Dean said, there’s still more than 27 holes to go,” said Sharma, appreciating his bagman’s positivity.

As for the final day, he admitted, “I was very angry at myself for having played like yesterday. Today after missing those makeable putts on first and third, I needed something because those first few are scoring holes. That chip-in from 35 yards was what I need to get myself going.”

Sharma on a roll

Sharma negotiated the stretch from fifth to seventh without mishaps. He even had a birdie chance on sixth. Then from the eighth he was on a roll. He drove well, hit his irons beautifully and putted well. He birdied four in a row from eighth to 11thand added two more on 16thand 18th.

The next stop is Sun City and who knows, maybe Dubai from there. Sharma is finding his touch again.

Schwab, a picture of consistency with nine top tens this season, turned in 34 but them missed chances as others took theirs.

Ultimately five others joined Schwab, who was looking for his maiden European Tour win, as was Hebert. The other four had good seasons with Kitayama, winning 2019 Oman Open; Van Rooyen, won 2019 Scandinavian Invitational; Perez, won 2019 Dunhill Links, but Hatton was winless since 2017 back-to-back successes at Dunhill and Italian.

Published on November 10, 2019
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