Gurugram, Haryana, 07 Mar 2018

After Masters invite, Shubhankar looks to make most of home conditions at Indian Open

Shubhankar Sharma begins the 2018 edition of the Hero Indian Open as one of the title favourites considering his recent hot streak that also earned him a place at the fabled Masters.

On Wednesday, while speaking to the Indian press for the first time since his standout performance at the WGC – Mexico Championship, Sharma couldn’t hold back his excitement on making it to one of golf’s showpiece events. 

Sharma said, “I’m really happy with what has happened to me so far. I think in golf, anything is possible, you have play well for four days and you can definitely compete with the best. I know that if I play my best, I’m good for a top-5 or even a win at the Masters Tournament. I’m really looking forward to it.

“I have to say that The Open is my favourite Major, although I also feel that you cannot compare two Majors. The Masters Tournament just has a particular feel to it, though.
“There is no player in particular that I want to be paired with. I’m just happy to be able to be part of the tournament. I don’t think I’ll be awestruck by any player.
“I’m looking forward to playing the Amen Corner where every hole has its own set of challenges.
“I was quite tough on myself throughout the flight back to India, as I didn’t finish the tournament the way I wanted it, but as soon as I got the call, all the pain got washed away. I’m really happy to be able to play in the Masters Tournament. It’s every golfer’s dream to play in the Masters, and I’m no exception.”

Reflecting on his tied ninth finish at his maiden PGA Tour and WGC event in Mexico last week where he held the lead after 54 holes, Shubhankar said, “I took a lot of positives in Mexico. I played in front of a massive crowd. People were cheering me on. I was very happy to receive the support. I gave my 100 per cent, but in golf, sometimes things don’t work out for you.
“I was paired with Phil Mickelson, a legend of the game. I wasn’t focusing on him, but I did notice some of the great shots that he made. It was great to see how he has conducted himself.”
Shubhankar, the European Tour and Asian Tour money list leader, also threw light on his achievements leading up to the WGC event.

“For a start, I wasn’t even sure if I was even going to play in the Joburg Open. Even after my win, I was just trying to play as much as I can. I wanted to show everyone that my win in South Africa wasn’t a fluke. I then managed to win the Maybank Championship, which is obviously good. It has been a big learning experience for me, as I was playing at new courses beyond Asia.”

Shubhankar will now be spearheading the Indian challenge at the Indian Open as he is the highest-ranked player in the field at 66. The DLF Golf & Country Club also happens to be his former home course where he played for several years before moving to Chandigarh.
“The Indian Open is very close to my heart. I witness every Indian Open before I turned professional. It has always been a dream for me if I can win it. I’m really looking forward to it. The field is great and the course is well maintained. Winning the All India Amateur was fantastic, but nothing beats winning the Indian Open.
“I don’t think I’m the top contender, as I haven’t won the tournament before. After last week, I got a lot of attention. Playing here, there is actually less pressure on me as compared to last week, because I’m playing here at home.
“The toughest competition here at the Hero Indian Open is the golf course. It’s about managing yourself out there. Not a lot of players will finish under-par this week. The course is player tougher compared to last year and it’s going to be a test of patience. A lot of great players are playing this week. So, may the best golfer win.”
Sharma, whose family hails from Jammu, is glad that at 21 he already has loads of experience. It’s a result of his decision to turn professional quite early in life 
“I turned pro when I was 16, when a lot of people discouraged me from doing so. It was tough at the start. Whenever I set the bar higher, I tend to do better. So, I’m glad I made the decision to turn professional. I’ve played on many Tours. I’m thankful that at such a young age, I’ve gathered so much experience.

“My dad has been very inspirational. I was the one who told my dad that I have to go to school, but he told me to play golf. My mum has allowed me to play my game as well and she didn’t push me to go to school. So, I’m thankful for their support.” 

Shubhankar went on to stress on the fact that the intense competition on the PGTI during his early years as a pro set him up well for his international career.
“The year I turned professional, there were 10 of us rookies and all of us retained our cards. We are all winners now. I’m thankful that we have a strong local tour in the PGTI that gives us the platform to hone our skills and move up to the international level.”

About PGTI:

Formed in 2006, Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) is the recognised official body of professional golf in India. PGTI's objective is to promote professional golf in the country, as well as to give players an opportunity to be involved in the decision making on all aspects of the game. Headed by Mr. Gautam Thapar (President), PGTI's governing body comprises leading Indian golf professionals. PGTI currently has over 300 members.

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Nikhil Kalaan
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