Shubhankar Sharma’s leap from India’s prodigy to among the best in the business
The Open Championship, among the oldest and most prestigious golf tournaments in the world, is not synonymous with fine performances by Indians.
It was back in 2004 when Jyoti Randhawa recorded the best performance by an Indian at The Open. Randhawa, who had earned his third appearance at The Open via a good show in the International Final Qualifying tournament, carded a three-over 287 overall to take tied 27th.
With a terrific run over four rounds at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course, Shubhankar Sharma wrote himself into the record book. Shubhankar grabbed the headlines with a tied-eighth finish, comfortably erasing Randhawa’s mark.
Shubhankar became only the third Indian to claim a top-10 spot at a Major. Anirban Lahiri’s tied-fifth at the 2015 PGA Championship set the benchmark for the nation, while Jeev Milkha Singh rounds the list with his tied-ninth effort at the 2008 PGA Championship.
The 27-year-old Shubhankar has joined elite company, even if he is not too concerned about breaking new ground. “I am not playing for the records. I just want to play my best golf. Jeev, Jyoti, and Anirban are all great players. To be mentioned along with them is an honour in itself,” Shubhankar said.
Shubhankar stood eight shots behind champion Brian Harman, who blitzed his way to the Claret Jug. The American was too good for the field, finishing six shots ahead of Spaniard Jon Rahm and three others tied for second place.
Shubhankar took home $4,03,350 as prize money, and guaranteed a spot for himself in the next edition of The Open. He also moved from 276 to 165 on the Official World Golf Ranking list.
Shubhankar reserved his best for the final round – a day affected by strong winds and rain. He carded an error-free one-under 70 to emerge as the only player in the star-studded field to enjoy a bogey-free Sunday.
“It’s amazing. I just played out of my skin, grinding from the first hole. I don’t remember the last time I’ve hit so many long irons into par fours – two irons, four irons, five irons all day, and I struck them brilliantly,” Shubhankar was quoted on europeantour.com.
“I’m really proud of myself and the way I handled myself on the course. The front nine was slightly edgy in some places. I did well to make up-and-down and make pars, but the back nine was just incredible ball-striking. Everything was close. Everything in those conditions with four irons, five irons in, everything was 15 to 20 feet – some were four, five feet,” he added.
Shubhankar, who counts The Open as his favourite tournament, came in struggling for form. He had missed the cut in his three previous tournaments – Genesis Scottish Open, Betfred British Masters and BMW International Open.
To get into rhythm, Shubhankar arrived at Merseyside three weeks before the start of the competition. He got to work at practice, making small but vital changes to his game.
“You want to play at your best at The Open, so my preparation for this was more than what I did for the other events. I came here three weeks early; I did a lot of practice as I felt like I needed a few tweaks to sharpen a few things,” Shubhankar said in a video.
Six years ago, Shubhankar became the youngest Indian to win on the European Tour (ET) when he claimed the Joburg Open title
Another ET crown came his way two months later when he won the Maybank Championship
For the 2023 edition of The Open, the Indian landed at Merseyside three weeks before the competition to work on his game
Since the British Open is always held around the time of his birthday, Shubhankar calls it a “double celebration”
Things could have gone awry for Shubhankar in the second round, when a drive on the par-3 17th hole landed in the waste area. Shubhankar found it tough to recover, and slipped to a double bogey. Shubhankar avoided derailment by making birdie on the last hole to end the halfway stage in tied third at three-under par total. It was a good way to celebrate what happened to be his 27th birthday.
“The Open is always around my birthday, so it is always a double celebration,” Shubhankar said.
“Right now, I am just thrilled with the week’s result. It is something I have always believed in. The last few weeks I played good golf, but things did not come together. This week, right from the start, I had a good feeling,” he said. “Without doubt, it was the best I have played on such a challenging course,” he added.
Shubhankar’s wondrous week should serve as a tremendous boost to his confidence. It was six years ago when he became the youngest Indian to win on the European Tour, claiming the tri-sanctioned Joburg Open.
Two months later, he added a second European Tour title after carding a terrific final round of 62 to win the 2018 Maybank Championship. These were early signs that Shubhankar boasted of immense talent, and this showing at The Open has proved that he has what it takes to compete with the best in the business.
For all the latest Sports News Click Here