14 July 2019: The weather was damp and cold. Shubhankar Sharma, playing his first ever Open was struggling with the conditions and the Carnoustie links. As he went the past the bend on that Friday afternoon, he seemed set for a damp weekend that was threatening to dull his excitement on the eve of his 22nd birthday.
But the determined Indian would not let the weather, or the grim situation come to pass on that grey day on the southern coast of Scotland. Playing with renewed purpose, Shubhankar produced some desperately needed birdies on the back nine as he recovered from a perilous situation.
As he reached the tenth tee, Shubhankar was coming off a pair of bogeys that threw him in the deep end. But three birdies in the next five holes rekindled his hopes of surviving the rough edge of the knife.
A birdie at the 18th meant that Shubhankar could return to his nest knowing that the weekend was secure. The birthday treats sure tasted great after that, but as he arrives into Portrush for the 148th Open, the 22-year-old is once again on rough seas.
He has missed the cut in six of his thirteen starts this season on the European Tour. A solitary top ten came at the Hong Kong Open in November last year. A disappointing T27 is the next best result for the embattled Indian.
As he takes on the challenge of dealing with the coast in Northern Ireland, Shubhankar will go in with some preparation at Lahinch last week and the Renaissance this weekend. While the former wasn’t a kind host, Renaissance and its tricky course brought out the best in Shubhankar.
The 22-year-old was staring down the barrel on Friday, languishing well outside the projected cutline. After playing spotless golf through the day, Shubhankar was left with just over 40 feet to cover on the 18th in the Scottish Open.
Unfazed, he took a measure of the task at hand, aligning his eye to the contours of the green. Soon he would step in and drop the monster putt for his fifth birdie in a brilliant 66. That round helped the Indian squeeze into the weekend on the number. He followed that with a determined 67, containing seven birdies, suggesting that he may caught the right winds before heading to Portrush.
With Shubhankar the only Indian in the 148th Open, the hopes of Indian golf fans are riding on his young shoulders. But he has shown it many times that this is exactly the kind of challenge that spurs him to great deeds.
As we head into another promising edition of the Open, let us hope that he can produce his best golf in the Open.