Armed with experience, Shubhankar Sharma ready for Hero Indian Open’s strong field at a challenging course -

Armed with experience, Shubhankar Sharma ready for Hero Indian Open’s strong field at a challenging course

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Khel Today Bureau 

Gurugram: Shubhankar Sharma calls the DLF Golf and Country Club his second home and like many other Indian golfers, he calls the Hero Indian Open as the ‘fifth’ Major for his fellow Indians.

The 27-year-old, who has already been a professional for more than a decade, and won twice on the DP World Tour, feels he is ready to add to that. The indication is there, as he arrives into India on the back of a fine Tied-seventh place at last week’s Porsche Singapore Classic.

The former Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year is joined by a strong field this week, which includes last year’s Hero Indian Open runner-up Yannik Paul of Germany and four-time DP World Tour winner Rasmus Højgaard, from Denmark.

The field of 144 at the USD 2.25 million Hero Indian Open includes 20 players from Top-200 and two of them, Hojgaard and Jordan Smith are in the Top-100 and another 18 players are ranked between 101 and 200, which includes India’s Sharma at 188.

More than 40 players in the field have won on the DP World Tour and between them their tally of DP World Tour titles is just under 90. With such a strong field, Sharma said, “The field is strong and it will be a good test this week.”

He added, “This is home for me, like my second home. I spent my teenage years here and all my evenings were spent practicing on the putting green, playing putting matches with friends. I know all the coaches, I know literally everyone, support staff, everyone who works here. So, you know, we had a routine of putting until the lights went. I used to live five minutes down the road. It’s going to be an amazing week.”

“It’s one of the tougher courses that we play all year, but it’s a challenge which we all cherish.”

On his career, he said “It feels like you’ve been around for a long time. Yeah, this is my 12th season as a pro, so it’s been a long time, it’s been a great time. I don’t want to make it sound like I’ve been out here for so long and not having fun. I’ve had the time of my life, I’ve made so many friends, travelled all around the world. And over the years I’ve just learned more about myself, gained experience of playing in different tournaments, especially in Europe and playing in the majors as well. And every year I’ve become a better player and a better person. I have a better understanding of the game and something that I’m really proud of – the journey that I’ve taken till now.”

The highest-ranked player in the field at 78, Rasmus Højgaard, who could not come to India because of an injury last year, said, “I started out on a good note (in Singapore). But I struggled mid-way through the tournament and finished with a good round. The game is in a good place. I felt like I was swinging it well, I just didn’t score. But I’ve heard that from a few other players as well. I’m looking forward to this, I think if you can somehow shoot four rounds under par you’ve done very, very well.”

He added, “Last year I was injured so I had to reschedule my whole year and unfortunately that meant I couldn’t come here and play. So, well, at least Nicolai (his twin brother) could show the name up on the media board a little bit, but yeah, I’ll try to show the Højgaards a little bit this year.”

“I think that my main goal for the year is to finish in the top 10 (on Race to Dubai) and get one of the cards so I can join him (Nicolai) over there (on the PGA Tour). Last year it was a bit of a weird finish because I missed out on one spot and he ended up winning the (DP World Tour Championship) tournament. I was very happy for him, but I was disappointed in myself at the same time.”

German Yannik Paul held the halfway lead at this tournament last year, but was pipped to the post by compatriot Marcel Siem, who ended a near-nine-year wait for his fifth DP World Tour title.

Siem is unable to defend his trophy this year as he recently underwent surgery on a long-standing hip injury.

This is the DP World Tour group’s third consecutive week in India co-sanctioned with the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), following back-to-back events on the European Challenge Tour.

John Parry, who won the Delhi Challenge a fortnight ago, is also in the field this week.

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