A 5-iron and all-round steel in Shubhankar Sharma’s Open showing - Hindustan Times
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A 5-iron and all-round steel in Shubhankar Sharma’s Open showing

ByJoy Chakravarty, Hoylake
Jul 25, 2023 07:43 AM IST

The Hoylake course brought the best out of him, says Shubhankar Sharma after a brilliant T-8 finish in the world’s oldest golf tournament

Not that we needed to wait for 72 holes to gain clinching evidence of Shubhankar Sharma’s mindset at the 151st Open Championship last week, but the penultimate of his 279 shots showed the immense amount of belief he had in finishing tied eighth at the oldest golf tournament in the world.

Shubhankar Sharma acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green after completing his round during the final day of the British Open Golf Championships at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England(AP)
Shubhankar Sharma acknowledges the crowd on the 18th green after completing his round during the final day of the British Open Golf Championships at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England(AP)

Having laid up with his second shot on the 620-yard par-5, playing even longer as it got hammered by the incessant rain, Sharma was left with a 203-yard third shot to a tough pin that was tucked to the left. More awkwardly, it was protected in the front by the three severe pot bunkers that were the talk of the town, just because it was almost impossible to get an up-and-down from them to any left pin position with 30-40 feet.

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Sharma’s caddie Lyle Phillips wanted to err on the side of caution. He urged him to go for a safer option – long, with a 4-iron. But after a lengthy deliberation, Sharma prevailed and chose a 5-iron, just because he “felt” that was the right club and he’d be able to pull off the shot.

What followed was incredible. He pierced the rain and slight wind with a majestic, towering shot, which landed a few inches above the bunker and rolled on to leave him the 10-footer.

Probably, it was the quality of that shot that left him lamenting the missed birdie putt which would have given him a grandstand finish. But it was also a moment that showed the oodles of belief he had in his game.

Not many expected him to do this well. After all, he came into the tournament having missed the cut in three previous appearances. However, there is something about tough golf courses and treacherous conditions that seem to bring out the best in him.

In finishing tied second in Abu Dhabi last year, Sharma shot a stunning one-under par 71 round in howling, 30 miles per hour wind on Friday when a par round seemed like mission impossible.

“I just like it. I don’t really like golf where you are bombing it and then you have a wedge in and then you make putts and shoot 10-under, 11-under. That is one kind of golf, but this is golf where you have to push and you have to get into it completely, you have to see different shots. You can’t just stand and look at a number and hit it,” said the 27-year-old from Chandigarh.

“I like this kind of golf. I do well like that, just being gritty and tenacious and not giving up shots.”

A couple of course management planning stood out in Sharma’s success – the way he managed to plot his position and stay out of the bunkers (went into only two in the four rounds) and the manner in which he negotiated the first four holes, which included two of the top three most difficult holes (first and third) during the championship.

It’s a finish that is sure to spur Sharma on to greater deeds. He improved to No.165 in the world rankings, a jump of 111 places. It also elevates him 41 places to No.54 in the Race to Dubai rankings on the DP World Tour.

“It means a lot and gives me a lot of confidence. It gives me confidence that I can play at the highest level, and I know what could have happened if I had made putts over the weekend. I could have been double digits with the way I was hitting it,” said the two-time winner on the DP World Tour, who has qualified for the Open next year.

“There’s so much more to build on. It feels like I can play better than this. And that is very exciting for the future.”

By finishing in the top-10, Sharma also made it to the field for next week’s 3M Championship on the PGA Tour but has decided not to accept the invitation and catch up on some rest and prepare for the crucial second half of the DP World Tour season.

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