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A day after his heroic tied-ninth finish in the World Golf Championship in Mexico, Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma has been given a special invite to play at this year’s Augusta Masters. The tournament’s committee extended an invitation to the youngster on Tuesday, which he has accepted. The tournament, which will be played at Augusta National Golf Club from April 5-8, will be Sharma’s first Major championships followed by British Open to be played in July, for which he qualified by winning the Joburg Open last year.
“Golf is a global game, and throughout our history we have extended invitations to deserving international players not otherwise qualified. As his results have proven, Shubhankar Sharma is a remarkable young player, and we look forward to welcoming him to Augusta National in April.” Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Sharma joins the 82 players from across the globe including world number 1 Dustin Johnson and WGC winner and five time major winner Phil Mickelson, who emerged as the winner in Mexico. Tuesday’s announcement also made Sharma only the fourth Indian player after Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Anirban Lahiri to play in Masters. While Jeev has played in Masters thrice with a best place finish of 25th, Lahiri has played twice first in 2015 followed by 2016 when he finished 42nd.
Sharma’s coach Jesse Grewal, who has been with him since 2005, says the performance in Mexico has strengthened his ward’s belief. “It’s fabulous. It’s a dream come true for Shubhankar and the way he led for the second and third rounds in Mexico led to this invite. Shubhankar first came to train at the age of nine years and like any other kid, he would also talk about playing in the Majors and especially the Masters,” Grewal said. “The field is relatively small and high ranked as compared to the other Majors. Competing with the likes of Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and other top-20 players has helped Shubhankar understand what needs to be done at this level. One thing which Shubhankar has always said that if somebody can do a thing, he can also achieve the same thing. And playing in Mexico only made this belief stronger.”
Unlike the other three Majors, which are played at different golf courses every year, Masters has been played every year at the Augusta National Golf Club since 1934. The tournament has 18 categories of qualification, which includes world’s top 50 ranked golfers apart from past winners and Major champions apart from amateur champions from USA, Britain, Asia Pacific and Latin America. While Sharma missed Asian tour events in December to play in Joburg Open on the European tour. The win there meant he qualified for the British Open, Sunday’s tied ninth place meant that Sharma’s current world ranking was at 66th with the Masters cut-off date being March 25.
“Shubhankar went to USA with Gurbazz Mann under Indian Professional Golfers Association in 2016 and he along with players like Sujjan Singh, Ajeetesh Sandhu played at various golf courses in USA travelling from East Coast to West Coast. The thing with Masters is that it is played at the same golf course so a player like Shubhankar can imagine his game. The greens are sloping and are one of the fastest in world apart from the fairways being undulating. The Par 4 holes are very long with some being more than 530 yards and a players needs to be good with irons. And that has been Shubhankar’s strength over the last few years. He is playing in the Indian Open this week and I am sure he will also talk with other players about the conditions,” said Grewal.