The Open: Gritty Shubhankar T8, Harman wins by 6 shots - Hindustan Times
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The Open: Gritty Shubhankar T8, Harman wins by 6 shots

ByJoy Chakravarty, Hoylake
Jul 24, 2023 08:18 AM IST

Sharma carded a bogey-free 1-under card in conditions rendered tough due to rain to finish 8-under for the tournament

With one of the grittiest rounds ever by an Indian golfer on international scene, Shubhankar Sharma went bogey-free in treacherous conditions to record the best finish for the country in the Open Championship and the second-best result ever in a Major championship.

United States' Brian Harman poses for the media as he holds the Claret Jug trophy for winning the British Open Golf Championships(PTI)
United States' Brian Harman poses for the media as he holds the Claret Jug trophy for winning the British Open Golf Championships(PTI)

On Sunday, when the runaway leader, American Brian Harman, was never tested and won his first major at 13-under par, six shots ahead of Korea’s Tom Kim (67), world No.3 Spaniard Jon Rahm (70), Australia’s Jason Day (69) and Austrian Sepp Straka (69), the tenacious Sharma handled the tough, rain-drenched conditions at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in brilliant fashion. A single birdie and 17 invaluable pars helped him finish on one-under par 70 for the day and five-under par 279 for the championship, which was good for a tied eighth place finish.

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The previous best result by an Indian in the Open Championship was a tied 27th by Jyoti Randhawa in 2004 at Royal Troon. Anirban Lahiri’s tied fifth place at the 2015 PGA Championship remains the best showing in a Major. It was only the third time an Indian finished inside the top-10, the other being Jeev Milkha Singh’s tied ninth in the 2008 PGA Championship.

No other player in the field – including the world No.1 Scottie Scheffler who closed with a 67, not Harman (70) – could protect their cards from taking some beating from the vile weather. The fairways were wet, making the course play ultra-long, the roughs were grabbing the clubs and the greens were tricky as the balls either stopped on pitching, or hydroplaned off the surface.

“I am just happy…and you can use any other adjective for happy to add to that,” said Sharma, who finished tied 51st in both his previous Open appearances. “I don’t like to talk much about my own game, but I am very proud of what I managed to accomplish today.

“My only disappointment was not making a 10-footer birdie putt on the 18th hole after hitting a really good five-iron approach shot over the greenside bunkers, but I just can’t complain. This was probably the best round of golf that I have ever played in my life.”

It was a grind for Sharma, who turned 27 on Friday, from the get-go. His drive veered left and left him a long second shot to the opening green, which he dumped into the greenside bunker – only the second, and the last, time he had visited those bewildering hazards of Royal Liverpool. But he made a crucial par putt from 12 feet, and that kickstarted a mighty battle against the elements.

“I knew it was going to be tough from the way the first hole played. My drive went 260 yards, and I was left with a 2-iron shot in. And it was a series of 2-irons and 4-irons for my second shots after that. It was mentally draining, but I managed to keep patient and stuck to my processes,” said Sharma, whose biggest reward was an invitation back to the 2024 Open Championship at Troon on the basis of finishing inside the top-10 this year.

It could have been far better, if not for a missed birdie putt from 10 feet on the 12th hole, followed by an agonising last moment dive by the ball on the 13th from six feet. And then there was the 10-footer missed on the 18th after the third shot, which Sharma said was the “shot of the tournament”.

Harman, who was heckled by the crowd for his hobby of hunting, dropped shots on the second and fifth holes to fall to 10-under and within three of the chasing pack, but made four birdies after that to finish on 13-under par. That included a stunning 40-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole that came immediately after a bogey on the 13th.

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