It was another off day for me and it also spelt the end of my challenge at the 2018 Hero Indian Open. After two years as a champion, I am indeed very disappointed at not even being around for the weekend. I just could not get any momentum going nor did any decent putts. Short misses and some
errant shots here and there meant a lot of dropped shots. And that added up to far too many bogeys. So, after two seconds and two wins in last four editions, I am home early and will watch the action on TV.
I am very disappointed but I will be rooting for our latest star, Shubhankar Sharma, who erased Gavin Green and Emiliano Grillo’s course record of 65 with a brilliant back nine. He was simply unstoppable on the back nine which had six birdies. A round of 64 on any course is brilliant, but at the Gary Player layout at DLF it is incredible. It also showed that his 61 in Joburg and 62 in Kuala Lumpur were an indication that he is capable of going really low at any time. While we all thought Emiliano Grillo was running away with the tournament, Shubhankar ensured that the lead was still manageable at four shots with 36 holes still to go.
Believe me on this course anything can happen. On the first day of the tournament, (Danthai) Boonma of Thailand after being five-under for 17 holes had a quadruple nine on 18th. So, all players need to be careful.
Shubhankar showed a maturity way beyond his years. He was patient when he needed to be and aggressive when he needed to be. He made almost no errors and converted most chances that came his way. His play has been very smart and it paid dividends.
Another Indian player to catch the eye was Khalin Joshi, who was fifth when Shubhankar won in Malaysia. Inspired by his Malaysia roommate, Khalin fired a 68 and he is now in Top-10. He may or may not win this week but I am sure he will win this season.
A lot of youngsters like amateur Kshitij Naveed Kaul, Karandeep Kochar, Udayan Mane and of course Ajeetesh (Sandhu). If you want to refer to somewhat senior players, it would Anirban (Lahiri), though he is only 30 and the solid Jyoti Randhawa.
Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur are hanging in as some players will need to come back to finish the second round. They are at 4-over as the cut may fall at 3-over. They will need a lot of luck and dropped shots from some others to make the final two rounds.
Meanwhile, I hope local fans will turn up to cheer Shubhankar, Khalin and the other youngsters.