Sharma's year to remember after Carnoustie debut
Long-touted as the next big thing to come out of India, Shubhankar Sharma’s breakthrough 2018 marked him out as a man for the present – not just the future.
It was a year that saw him claim his first European Tour victory, then back that up with another – all inside 13 starts on the Tour – and appear at all four majors for the first time.
He claimed the European Tour Rookie of the Year award last month – named after Sir Henry Cotton and also topped the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Clearly there are many celebrations to come in his budding career.
But they will have to go some to match his 22nd birthday, spent playing his dream major – The Open – at the dream course in Carnoustie.
Sharma booked his spot at The Open with his maiden Tour victory at the Joburg Open.
He had begun his season in style with a top ten in Hong Kong, but what happened in South Africa marked him out as star on the rise.
That event doubled as part of the Open Qualifying Series – thereby booking his place at Carnoustie.
The youngster backed it up just three starts later in the Maybank Open – carding an almost unbelievable closing 62 to take the title in Malaysia.
Monday Review: Sharma excited for The Open after claiming second victory of the season. And Woodland wins just ahead of Superbowl kick-off in Phoenix https://t.co/xHNKPcJFwN pic.twitter.com/BxlQWVuwkq— The Open (@TheOpen) February 5, 2018
Only Jon Rahm, Luke Donald and Jeunghun Wang have won twice in their first 20 European Tour events in the last 20 years.
Now Sharma was a name garnering some serious attention, not a bad way to rally from missing out at last year’s Q-School.
The Maybank win lifted him into the world’s top-100 for the first time, he was an early leader on the European Tour money list and secured a spot at the WGC World Championships in Mexico.
There he hoovered up every second of the experience of playing alongside a Champion Golfer of The Year in Phil Mickelson.
Leading after 54 holes there, before fading, Sharma had done enough to earn himself a special invitation to the Masters.
He missed the cut at Augusta, however, and the same was to happen at the US Open at Shinnecock Hills.
But The Open had long been the tournament he had dreamed about.
And it was there that he became the youngest ever Indian to make the cut at a major.
After an opening 73 at the Angus links, in filthy conditions on the Friday Sharma turned on the style.
He showed great heart to make four birdies on the back nine to close to two over, sneak inside the cut line and give himself the best early 22nd Birthday present he could ever have dreamed of.
Another 71 and a second 73 on the weekend saw Sharma finish in tied 51st – a phenomenal achievement in his first-ever Claret Jug.
Indeed it was the turn that proved Sharma’s undoing – he played holes seven to 12 in a combined nine over across the four rounds but thrived everywhere else on the most gruelling holes in links golf.
By now Sharma had reached as high as 64th in the world and a further major appearance - a missed cut, at Bellerive in the PGA Championship, saw him complete the set of major outings.
By November, Sharma’s focus had turned to securing the famous rookie of the year award that has been won before by many of the greats of the game including Champion Golfer of The Year Sir Nick Faldo and major champions Brooks Koepka and Martin Kaymer.
He finished the job off at DP World Tour Championships in Dubai.
“You can only do it once in your career and I'm very happy with the season,” he said. “I'm very happy to be on the Tour here.
“I'm sure a lot of other great players before have won this award, I'm really happy that I was lucky enough to win it this year. I played well and won twice and had a few top tens, so very happy.
“To win twice and just to learn so much on this Tour with the best players in the world, I would say I had a great year.”
We couldn’t have put it any better….