It is not a name many golf fans outside Asia are familiar with. Not yet anyway. But the time has surely come to take note of Shubhankar Sharma. Only 13 events into his European Tour career, the 21-year-old Indian now has two victories – one more than his number of missed cuts.
Just two months on from his first win at the Johannesburg Open, the man who is likely golf’s best-performing vegetarian added the Maybank Championship in Malaysia to his suddenly burgeoning resume.
He did it in some style, too. After surviving the halfway cut at Saujana Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur by a single stroke, Sharma shot 66-62 over the weekend to reach 21-under par and achieve a two-stroke edge over runner-up Jorge Campillo of Spain. Ryan Fox of New Zealand and Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal tied for third, three shots behind Sharma.
For his trouble, Sharma collected €400,930 and, by way of bonuses, clinched a place in the upcoming WGC-Mexico Championship as well as moving to the top of the Race to Dubai rankings. Heady stuff for a golfer who, only three weeks before his maiden victory, finished T-68 at European Tour Qualifying School.
Sharma’s closing round on Sunday – four strokes better than anyone else in the field managed over the closing 18 holes – included 10 birdies, no dropped shots and set an early target none of the previously more prominent contenders came close to matching. Understandably, Sharma was more than excited – and talkative – at the close.
“That win in Johannesburg [which guaranteed him a spot in this year’s British Open at Carnoustie] helped me a lot today,” he said. “The way I played there gave me a lot of confidence. I was not under any pressure. I was a few groups ahead and no one was really watching me. The way I finished [five birdies in his last eight holes] was fantastic. Nothing went wrong.
“I played pretty solid and it wasn’t easy because it was windy. I kept pushing the whole day. I knew I had to make a lot birdies to catch the leaders. I made a lot of birdies on the front nine and just continued on the back. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about the leaderboard. I wanted to set a target in my mind and try to achieve it.
“On the 13th, I knew I was somewhere near the leaders, but on 16 I knew I had a two-shot lead. I told myself if I can make two more birdies, that would give me a good chance to win.
“The past two months have changed my life. Even playing in the Q-school gave me confidence, although I didn’t get my card. And, having made the cut in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, I have made a good start to this year. I really wanted to make the WGC-Mexico. I knew I needed a good week here. A lot of doors will open for me now.”