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Shubhankar sets sights on third European Tour win at Turkish Airlines Open

Joy Chakravarty

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Shubhankar Sharma
Shubhankar Sharma.

Antalya: The birdies are now coming in a deluge from Shubhankar Sharma. The Indian ace is now focused on reducing mistakes on the golf course as he bids for a third European Tour win.

The 22-year-old from Chandigarh is playing the Turkish Airlines Open this week, an exclusive-field Rolex Series event, with his sights firmly set on securing a place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai two weeks from now.

Sharma is currently ranked No. 81 in the Race to Dubai and needs to move inside the top-60 with his performance in Turkey to make it to next week’s Nedbank Challenge in Sun City near Johannesburg, and will have to be inside the top-50 to secure his playing rights at the DP World Tour Championship.

The last three tournaments have been very good for the Arjuna Award winner, with him matching, or making more birdies than the eventual champion in Italy and Portugal. In fact, Sharma is second in the number of birdies made on the European Tour since the Italian Open in the second week of October. He has 55 in the 12 rounds, just one lower than Joachim B Hansen.

“I am quite pleased with how I am playing and there is no reason why I should not be able to continue posting good results,” said Sharma, now ranked 281st in the world.

“I have been making a lot of birdies lately, which were missing from my scorecard towards the second half of last season. I have a new driver now (a PING G410) from the Italian Open and it has helped me find more fairways. The iron play seems to be back in the groove as well.

“All I need to do now is limit the odd mistakes and anything can happen after that.”

Sharma is aware how important the Turkish Airlines Open is for him, but he is focused on playing good golf rather than the result.

“It’s very important for me to do well here to give myself a chance not only for next week in Johannesburg, but also qualify for Dubai,” he added after a long day of practice at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal golf course.

“I like the golf course. With five par-5s, most of them reachable in two, there are plenty of birdie opportunities here. There are also five par-3s and you have to be careful with a couple of them.

“The key this week, really, would be hitting the ball well off the tee. I am going to take it one shot and one hole at a time and hopefully, by the end of the week I would have done enough to take care of the next two tournaments.”

The Turkish Airlines Open is now in its seventh edition and offers a total prize fund of $7 million, with the winner’s cheque enhanced to $2 million from this year.

England’s world No8 Justin Rose is the highest ranked player in the field and is aiming to become only the fourth player in European Tour history to three-peat in a tournament. He won the last two years when the event was hosted down the road at Regnum Carya.

The only three players to have won the same tournament three years in a row on European Tour outside the majors and WGCs are Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie.

“You talk about doing things for the first time in your career, you don’t get the opportunity to do that very often, so three-peat would clearly be a first for me,” Rose said ahead of the tournament.

“To win the same event three years in a row would be incredible. It would be a huge honour to join that seriously illustrious list and something I’m keenly aware of. I am going to enjoy the challenge to try and do. It’s definitely a focus for me and an inspiration.

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Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf) has been closely involved with Indian golf over the past two decades and is considered one of the leading golf journalists in Asia. He has covered 18 major championships and more than 100 events on various Tours. He was the first journalist from Asia to be inducted into Association of Golf Writers. A seasoned media manager, Joy is currently responsible for media outreach for various golf tournaments organised by the R&A, Augusta National Golf Club and the MENA Tour. When away from the course, Joy is passionate about increasing awareness and raising the profile of Asian players through various media platforms.