July 13, 2019: Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Shubhankar Sharma of India will make his return to the world’s oldest Major when he takes his place among the world’s best players at Royal Portrush next week.
Having qualified for The 148th Open by virtue of his Merit win on the Asian Tour last year, Sharma will be hoping to better his tied-51st finish from his Carnoustie debut in 2018, which was a breakthrough year for the 22-year-old.
He captured his second Asian Tour title at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia which proved pivotal to him winning the Merit title last year and became the youngest Indian to play in all four Major Championships in 2018, following the footsteps of Jeev Milkha Singh in 2007 and Anirban Lahiri in 2015 and 2016.
More groundbreaking achievements soon followed as he was conferred the prestigious Arjuna Award back home and named as the European Tour Rookie of the Year.
“It was a huge learning curve for me last year. I’ve played in some of the biggest events I could ever imagine and learned a lot. Obviously, the Asian Tour played a big role as the Tour gave me the chance to compete and develop my game,” said Sharma.
Sharma may not have reached the heights of last year where he reached a career-high of 64th place on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Ranked 201 in the world with only a tied-second result on his domestic circuit as his best result so far this year, he remains optimistic and knows he still has the game to underline his credentials as Asia’s number one player.
“I’m obviously a lot more mature this year and I just want to get back into the groove again of playing at my best again. I know I have the game to be among the best in the world and I just want to keep playing well and give my best shot,” said Sharma.
The 2014 Merit winner finished tied-58th in 2015 and missed the cut in 2017.
Japan’s Yuta Ikeda, a two-time Asian Tour winner, will also be making his way to the Antrim coast after securing his 21st career win on Japan Golf Tour at the Mizuno Open, which was part of The Open Qualifying Series.
Ikeada, whose best finish of tied 38th in The Open came at Royal St George’s in 2011, will be playing The Open for the eighth time, and his fifth in a row.
“I am very happy to have qualified for The Open thanks to this victory. I was worried I might not be able to play in it this year so it is great to have the opportunity to play on the big stage again. I have played in The Open a number of times and I am happy to be going overseas to compete in the Championship again,” said the 33-year-old Japanese.