As is his wont, Shubhankar Sharma “internalises” (introspects) after each round—irrespective of the outcome—and the process culminates with making mental notes on the tournament just ended. After the T7 at the Turkish Airlines Open last week and on the eve of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa, the 23-year-old is clear of the objectives. Another top-10 at the Gary Player Country Club will get him into the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour’s season-ender, but Sharma is unwilling to look beyond this week.
Appreciative of where he stands, courtesy the season’s late revival with the top-10 at the Italian Open in October, Sharma’s endeavour will be to put together four solid rounds and let the result take care of itself. Consistency was an issue in Antalya last week as the two rounds of 71 negated the bogey-free 64s. Ranked 61st on the Race to Dubai (order of merit), another top-10 will see Sharma make it comfortably to Dubai’s Jumeirah Golf Estates as part of the top 50.
While Sharma has been dropping more shots than he would have liked, making up with the recent birdie-hitting spree gives confidence that he could feature in the season-ending tournament for the second year running. That the route to Dubai goes via Sun City has helped. Last year’s T27 has prepared him for what to expect this week. “It’s not the easiest course to shoot low, but rewards good driver shots and iron play,” said Sharma in an interview. “Tight off the tee, one has to be accurate as the ball travels long and it gets tougher if the wind picks up.”
Making it to Dubai will be a bonus, if not, his motto, “in golf you can never put your feet up”, will come into play. The new season starts immediately after, and Sharma will renew his quest for a third European Tour win with big-ticket events in Hong Kong and Mauritius. From a run in the wilderness to just about making it to Antalya left him determined to press on, and after dropping five shots over three holes at the start of the third day, stubbornness (of making it to South Africa) set in.
“I was angry and that often makes you push harder to attack the pins. It’s tough to pick yourself up but you have to do it,” said Sharma. It was a remarkable recovery as from four-over after seven holes, he signed a card for one-under. Happy at the persistence, Saturday night was spent in meditation and talking to his parents in Chandigarh. Several positives emerged and coupled with the work put in on the short game, Sharma shot a second flawless 64.
Despite him saying, “I don’t want to associate what I’ll get from a strong finish”, Sharma will need inspiration to soar. What works for him is this week’s host is Gary Player, a sprightly 84-year-old nine-time Major winner. “He is so full of life and that’s infectious,” said Sharma. “He takes pride in talking about his routine and diet, which is the key to his fitness and makes him good enough for the senior tour even now.”
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