As 21-year-old Shubhankar Sharma waited near the final hole for Spain’s Jorge Campillo to end his round in the Maybank Championship at Saujuna Golf Club, Malyasia, the youngster was joined by fellow Indian golfer and three-time European tour winner Arjun Atwal.
With Shubhankar carding a final round of 10-under-62, Campillo needed an albatross to force a playoff but as the Spanish golfer only managed a birdie, Atwal poured some champagne over Sharma to celebrate the young golfer’s second win from six tournaments on the European Tour.
The win with a stunning final round with four consecutive birdies also meant that Sharma collected his biggest prize money of 400,930 Euros almost double of the 195,830 Euros he won after the Joburg Open last December and also climbed to the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai Rankings.
Sharma’s final round of 62 was the lowest final round score of this season of European Tour and lowest final round score by a winner since Irish golfer Paul Dunner in the British Masters last year.
“They were cheering for me and talking about their plans when I was waiting for the round to end. I have grown up seeing players like Jeev and Arjun play and it was a special moment for me. This is my second win on the European Tour and I could not have asked for more. When I started the day, I was at the 18th spot and I had this belief to have a good round and the score of ten-under showed that. The course was not easy as the conditions were windy and the ball was swirling a lot. My iron-play helped me today and hitting the ball straight was the key for me. Most of my birdies came from the rough and my putting helped me today,” shared Sharma, while talking to The Indian Express.
Sharma’s final score of 21-under-267 saw him carding a staggering 24 birdies. With 100 percent sand saves in the tournament, the 21-year-old, who started 18th on the final day and won with two shots, ensured that he did not return with a par or above par overall score in the $3000,000 prize money event.
In the six tournaments of the European Tour so far, Sharma has twice returned with scores of 21-under or below and has the fifth best stroke average of 68.67 this year on the European Tour. Earlier this month, Sharma played in the Dubai Desert Classic and Abu Dhabi Championship, where he also got a chance to share rounds with players like Asian Order of Merit leader Gavin Green and 11-time European tour winner Henrik Stenson.
Sunday’s win also meant that Sharma’s world rankings would be close to the 70th spot from the current ranking of 193 when the new rankings are announced on Monday.
“This was my second score of 20-under or more in the last two months and I just focus on staying calm and not to get overwhelmed by birdies. But then getting them helps ofcourse. After the ball hit the pin on the 14th hole which would have meant an eagle, the birdies on the last two holes did help as Campillo was close. But I remember, I had some low scoring rounds in tournaments like Dubai too. This is my first year on the Tour and just sharing the locker room with players like Rory Mcllroy and Sergio Garcia is a top feeling. We do not talk much during the tournaments but watching things like their ball striking helps you a lot. I played my third round here with 11 time European tour winner Henrik Stenson and we talked about playing in the European tour. Getting close to the top 50 is my goal and I am happy that I am closer to this,” shared the golfer, who now resides in Panchkula.
While fellow Indian Anirban Lahiri is playing on the PGA Tour, Sharma will be playing on the European Tour rest of the season apart from some co-sanctioned events on the Asian Tour.
Guaranteed spot in WGC C’ship
Sunday’s win also meant that Sharma, who has 748,074 points on European Tour race to Dubai rankings is guaranteed a place in the WGC Mexico Championships in March. Sharma’s long-time coach Jesse Grewal sees this as a perfect opportunity to collect valuable points to break into top 50 or even top 30.
“Shubhankar’s strength has been his ability to shoot low scores and unlike many players on the Asian Tour, he does not relax even after a round of 4 or 5 under. The Jo’burg Open handed him a spot for The Open and this win has ensured him a spot in the WGC. This will be his first tournament with all PGA players and it will test his skills. It is still his first year on the European Tour where one plays in different, windy conditions. One thing which has helped me is the fact that he can vary his swing and adjust to the conditions,” concluded Grewal.