India’s Shubhankar Sharma ready for European Tour’s Dessert swing
Abu Dhabi, January 18: India’s Shubhankar Sharma is hoping to start the new year, in the same manner, he ended 2017 as he returns to action at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Shubhankar, who is sponsored by Take Solutions, DLF and Indorama Ventures Plc., clinched the biggest victory of his career at the Joburg Open 2017 in December. He took home a winner’s prize purse of US$191,532 and received 17 Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) for his win and a ticket to The 147th Open at Carnoustie. Back home Shubhankar stamped his authority by clinching the season-ending McLeod Russel Tour Championship 2017 played at the revered Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).
Shubhankar earned accolades from none other than golf legend and International Ambassador of golf, Gary Player for his stupendous achievement. “Now more than ever, golf is a global game. When I was playing the Sunshine Tour, there were very few pros from Asia playing. Now there are men and women from many different countries and cultures traveling to our country to compete. It shows how far we have come, in a relatively short time. Well done to Shubhankar on his significant victory at the Joburg Open, and I hope to see him back in South Africa for years to come. This is simply fantastic for golf in India which goes from strength to strength,” said Player.
“I’m very excited to be playing in this world-class event with a top-notch field. I am happy with my game at the moment and looking forward to another exciting week,” said Shubhankar who is paired with Jason Norris and Jeunghun Wang (11:35 am Tee off from 10th)
Meanwhile, Justin Rose, the Olympic Champion, is fresh from a well-earned festive rest after a fine finish to last year when he won back-to-back European Tour titles at the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Turkish Airlines Open as he pushed Tommy Fleetwood all the way in the Race to Dubai, before he added a third title in seven weeks at the Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour.
Rose is making his third appearance at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, having finished runner-up in 2013 and tied 12th in 2015, and the Englishman will once again face an impressive field. This year, the line-up includes World Number One Dustin Johnson – who was runner-up to Fleetwood 12 months ago – four-time Major Champion Rory McIlroy and the two men who joined Rose on the podium in Rio in 2016, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and American Matt Kuchar.
Kuchar is making his debut in the tournament and he marked the occasion by announcing he is joining the European Tour as an affiliate member for the 2018 season. Rose’s compatriot Paul Casey, who won the title in Abu Dhabi in 2007 and 2009, is also in the field as he makes his return as a European Tour member.
“I think this is such a great place to start the season. We all know things start right after The Race to Dubai in Hong Kong, but mentally I think there’s a little bit of a switch off around Christmas, new year. Everyone wants to let the brain go soft for a few weeks and then you sort of gear back up and this is just such a great place to start,” said Rose.
“HSBC always host a lovely tournament here. The golf course here in Abu Dhabi is always in great shape. I think in the beginning part of the year, you kind of want to play in places where you know you’re going to have good weather, good course conditions and obviously against a strong field.
“For me it’s a great place to start things off, to get the momentum going again, and we all know what’s ahead, lots of big tournaments, and then Major season, and then also for me, a little bit different this year hosting the British Masters, as well. There are lots of things to look forward to this year.”
Dustin Johnson, who is No.1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, is also looking forward to playing in Abu Dhabi: “I definitely got (the year) off to a really good start. Played very well the first week and I had a week off and now I’m here in Abu Dhabi, which is a place where I enjoyed coming last year. So I was excited to come back and looking forward to this week. I felt like the golf course, it’s in good shape and the game’s in pretty good form, too.”