When 21-year-old Shubhankar Sharma tees off at the 147th Open Championship at the Carnoustie links in Scotland, he will become the youngest Indian debutant at the championships. It will be his third Major of the year after the Masters and the US Open. The Chandigarh golfer missed the cut at both events, but considers playing in the Open a special dream and believes he is well prepared for the challenge.
“The Open Championship was the first Major which I qualified for and it’s always a special feeling to compete in a Major. Playing off the tee will be key here as the fairways are very hard. I played links golf courses during the last two weeks and it helped my game. I remember watching Padraig Harrington winning the championships here on television and I used to tell my father about every hole here.
“I have played two practice rounds here and the conditions are very windy. As compared to Shinnecock Hills where the US Open was played, the rough is thinner here but the fairways are super hard and the ball will bounce more. The wind can change conditions here and trusting the right club and ball flight is key,” Sharma told The Indian Express from Scotland.
The last two weeks have seen Sharma playing links golf at the Irish and Scottish Opens. Sharma booked a spot in The Open by winning the JoBurg Open in South Africa in December last year. Sharma’s long-time coach Jesse Grewal counts this as a positive for the youngster.
“The fact that Shubhankar booked a spot in The Open in December last year makes a difference. He played in the Irish Open and Scottish Open prior to coming here. Although he missed the cut in the two events, it helped him understand the conditions at links golf courses. It’s a packed field with the top 74 golfers in the world rankings playing here and the first round pairing with Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau will only propel Shubhankar’s game,” said Grewal, who joined Sharma on Monday. The Carnoustie Golf Links Course measures 7,402 yards with the The R&A shaving off 19 yards earlier this week for the competition. In the seven Open Championships so far hosted at the venue starting from 1931, only twice has the winner posted a score below 280 with Padraig Harrington winning with a score of 277 in 2007 when the event was last held here. The fact that two of the four highest scoring Opens have been played at Carnoustie since 1948 will also play on the minds of the 156-player field.
No wonder that the venue has been nicknamed ‘Car-nasty’ due to the unpleasant experiences of several golfers in Opens gone by. Sharma’s first round playing partner Garcia posted rounds of 89 and 83 in his maiden Open Championship in 1999 at Carnoustie and Grewal believes that the choice of the clubs and avoiding the bunkers will be the key for Sharma.
With compatriot Aniban Lahiri too in the field, it will be the eighth time that two Indian golfers will featuring in a Major championships together.
“The key to success at a links course has to be understanding the conditions. Even though they have shortened the course by 19 yards, Carnoustie is a tough golf course. The ball can roll close to 100 yards on the fairways. Add to that the windy conditions, whether upwind or tailwind. The tee shot is very important as avoiding the bunkers here will be a challenge. And with wind conditions changing everyday, Shubhankar has to use different clubs every day,” explained Grewal.