Shubhankar Sharma aims to extend Merit lead
Chinese Taipei, September 25: Rising star Shubhankar Sharma of India will resume his chase for the coveted Asian Tour Order of Merit crown when he tees off for the US$850,000 Mercuries Taiwan Masters on Thursday.
Sharma, who will be receiving the prestigious Arjuna Award from the President of India in Delhi today, is determined to put up a fine performance this week to extend his lead on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings.
The 22-year-old Sharma will spearhead the elite 123-man field from 23 countries at the fabled Taiwan Golf and Country Club, the traditional home of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters which is celebrating its centennial year in 2018 as the oldest club in the country.
“I am really excited to be coming back to play in Asia. This is my third time playing in the Mercuries Taiwan Masters. I am looking forward to seeing all my friends again and it will be nice to catch up with all of them this week,” said Sharma.
“I’ve played the course before so I know what mistakes I should avoid. I’ll make sure I come up with a good game plan and hopefully play well this week. The aim is also to build some good momentum before heading to the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
“I’m looking forward to play in the CIMB Classic as well. It’s one of the biggest events in Asia and I’m very happy to qualify for that. I have never played at the TPC KL before. I have been very lucky to get a few starts on the PGA Tour as well this year so I am very excited.
“The chase for the Asian Tour Order of Merit crown has been on my mind since the start of the season. I’ve been leading the Habitat for Humanity Standings since winning the Maybank Championship in February. I’m lucky to still be in the lead even though I haven’t played much in Asia.
“I will try my best to play well these two weeks and hopefully extend my lead at the top of the money list. It’s not going to be easy but I’m in the best position that anyone can be in. It will be a great honour if I can join the list of Indian players who have won the prestigious Asian Tour Order of Merit crown.
“I am really happy to receive the Arjuna award today as well. It’s a great honour. Many great golfers in India, like Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar, have won the award so to be able to join that illustrious list really mean a lot to me. My whole family will be there at the ceremony with me today so I am really excited.”
South African Justin Harding, highest-ranked player in 97th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), will also feature in the storied event alongside Korea’s Sanghyun Park and Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe, all placed inside the top-10 on the Habitat for Humanity Standings.
The Mercuries Taiwan Masters, which is celebrating its 32nd edition this week, is the longest-running full-field event on the Asian Tour. Inaugurated in 1987, the event has been held annually on the region’s premier Tour since 2004.
Players will be vying to boost their Merit rankings as the top 10 and top four players (not otherwise exempt) on the Habitat for Humanity standings will qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic and US$10 million WGC-HSBC Champions staged in Malaysia and China respectively.
The Mercuries Taiwan Masters will be the penultimate event for players to try and boost their rankings on the Habitat for Humanity Standings before the cut-off date on October 7.
Did you know?
- Shubhankar Sharma, a two-time Asian Tour winner, currently leads the Habitat for Humanity Standings with a season’s haul of US$603,156.
- Sharma won his first Asian Tour title at the Joburg Open last December. He went on to claim his second victory two months later at the Maybank Championship and broke into top-100 on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) for the first time in his career.
- He continued his remarkable rise at the World Golf Championships in Mexico where he came in top-10 in his first attempt.
- Sharma played in all four Major championships this year. He is the youngest Indian and third overall to achieve the feat following Jeev Milkha Singh in 2007 and Anirban Lahiri in 2015 and 2016.
- Sharma will receive the award from the President of India in a ceremony to be conducted at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House) in Delhi today.
- Other Indian golfers who have won the Arjuna Award include: Ali Sher (1991), Amit Luthra (1996), Harmeet Kahlon (1997), Jeev Milkha Singh (1999), Shiv Kapur (2002), Jyoti Randhawa (2004), Arjun Atwal (2007), Gaganjeet Bhullar (2013), Anirban Lahiri (2014) and S.S.P. Chawrasia (2017).
- Justin Harding is playing in only his sixth start on the Asian Tour this week. He has claimed two victories and a runner-up finish so far.
- Harding broke into top-10 on the money list following his second-place result in Japan last week. He sits in a current eighth position and is in the running to qualify for the WGC-HSBC Champions in November.
- The 32-year-old Harding won his first Asian Tour title in his first start on Tour this season at the BANK BRI Indonesia Open in July. He later claimed a six-shot victory at the Royal Cup to become the first player since 2011 to win back-to-back titles on the region’s premier Tour.
- Prior to his campaign this week, Scott Vincent has notched a total of eight top-10 results this season. He has missed only two cuts in 17 starts so far. He is chasing for a breakthrough win on the Asian Tour this week.
- The 26-year-old Vincent came in joint runner-up when he played in his first attempt at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters last year.
- Vincent is leading the total against par rankings where he is 106-under-par in 59 rounds this season. He is incredibly 31 shots to-par better than anyone else in the ranking.
- Vincent, placed fourth on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings, will have his wife Kelsey on the bag again this week.
- Vincent, the only Zimbabwean member on Tour, was named the Rookie of the Year in 2016. He came through the Qualifying School in his first attempt earlier that year.