Hong Kong Open: Shubhankar Sharma says he’s the man to win India’s first major
- The 22-year-old is a man in a hurry and is eager to build on his impressive first season on the European Tour
Shubhankar Sharma’s debut European Tour season smacked of a man in a hurry and he has no plans of slowing down, saying he can be the first Indian to win a major championship.
Sharma was solid on the first day of the Honma Hong Kong Open on Thursday, shooting a one-under-par 69, and is bullish about what lies ahead.
The 22-year-old answered an emphatic “yes” when asked if he can break India’s major drought and says his top-10 in Hong Kong last year was the foundation for his impressive first season in Europe.
“It has been an amazing year and it all started here in Hong Kong, I had a top-10 finish here and then went on to win in Johannesburg two weeks later,” he said.
“It has been a crazy year, I played all the majors and won twice on the European Tour. Twelve months ago I couldn’t have really dreamt of all of this and I’m pretty happy with where I am right now.
“I always believed in myself that I could get to this stage and now that I have, it’s great. I’m not very surprised but maybe a little bit.”
Sharma cites his ninth in the WGC–Mexico Championship in March as proof he can match it with the best.
“I had a chance to win the WGC event with all the top players in the world, so I definitely see myself playing well in majors in the future,” he said.
“[Winning majors] is why you play golf, you have to dream big and I definitely feel like I can compete with the best out there.”
Sharma was named the European Tour’s rookie of the year this week and finished 28th in the Race to Dubai, while he also leads the Asian Tour’s order of merit with only a handful of tournaments remaining.
And while Sharma has full confidence in his own ability, he is also acutely aware of what he must do to continue his rapid rise.
“My first year on the European Tour has been amazing, I’m just continuing to learn and it’s great that I’m getting to play with the best players in the world,” he said. “I got to play with Patrick [Reed] today who won the Masters.”
Sharma is well and truly in touch with the leaders after the opening day at Fanling, with England’s Aaron Rai, Australia’s Jason Scrivener and Japan’s Yusaku Miyazato the joint leaders on five-under.
“I’m pretty happy, one-under is never bad on the first day. This is a very tight course, especially with the wind that was there this morning,” he said.
“It is a short golf course but the wind can definitely mess things up, especially on the back nine there are some really tight holes.
“It’s not easy all round and even the greens are not easy to reach, I guess that’s what makes it so exciting every year, it doesn’t go that low and you see so many players in the mix.”
Sharma was the best of his grouping, with Reed having a dirty day on the way to posting five-over-par 75 and Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick carding an even-par 70.