17 July 2019: The upswing in Asian golf is bearing fruit and taking a life of its own. 16 of the 156 strong field at the Open Championship are with Asian Tour pedigree. Even though we only have one Indian in the field, Indian and Asian fans can draw energy from the fact that the 148th Open will feature the most number of Asian Tour golfers ever in a major tournament. Shubhankar Sharma is feeling confident after some insightful practice rounds on the Dunluce Links.
Jazz Janewattananond and Kiradech Aphibarnrat are leading the Thai charge as they bring in four golfers into the field this week. Japan and Korea have three each of theirs in the field while the USA and South Africa are represented by two golfers each. India and Australia have one member each in the field this week.
The Asian golf fans received a huge boost when Shubhankar Sharma was paired with world number one Brooks Koepka of the United States and Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Champion. They will tee off at 0534pm IST to a gallery that is expected to be one of the largest, outside of the groups containing Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy.
“Obviously there’s going to be a lot of people following us and hopefully more people back home in India will watch it too. It’s always going to be fun playing with the Major champions,” said Sharma.
Gunn Charoenkul and Prom Meesawat are the other two Thai golfers, with the former making his Open debut. Yosuke Asaji, Mikumu Horikawa and Yuta Ikeda will be flying the flag for the land of the rising Sun.
David Lipsky and Kurt Kitayama are the Asian Tour members from the USA while Justin Harding and Shaun Norris represent South Africa, trying to build on their already impressive seasons.
Jake McLeod is the lone Aussie, with Shubhankar the only one helping hoist the Indian flag here in Northern Ireland.