04 November 2018: Neither man found their approach at the penultimate hole endearing. At the deep end of this intriguing battle for Turkish Airlines Open honours, Justin Rose and Haotong Li were doing everything in their powers to summon their very best as they ushered the climactic scenes. Rose had pulled his stroke left, resting about 50ft from the pin. Li smelt an opportunity and dropped his club when he spurned it with a mediocre shot of his own.
The theatre in Kadriye was spellbound by the drama. The steady din of noise was reaching a crescendo and when Rose failed to make par from four feet, both men were evenly poised as they made their way to the 18th tee box. One last time, or was it?
Rose banged his approach astray for the second hole running and this time landed in the bunker guarding the expansive 18th green. Haotong flew his bird safely to the deck, but in a show of nerves failed to make the par that could have earned him the title. Both men made bogey, ushering the tournament into its first-ever playoff.
The title defense and the top ranking were on the line for the Englishman. It was a matter of pride and a third European Tour title for the emerging star from China.
In the end, Haotong had two opportunities to nail Rose and he spurned those chances. The three-putt during the playoff was a clear sign of the dancing nerves between his ears.
Rose had greater stakes on the table, but he has been on an enormous run since August 2017. He brought his experience to those final moments and despite bogeys on the last two holes, kept his head firmly over his shoulders to successfully defend the Turkish Airlines Open.
Shubhankar Sharma finishes on a positive note
Shubhankar Sharma promised to go low on Sunday. ‘I have nothing to lose,’ he assured us at the end of a tough third round that ended with a bogey. ‘We have just one round to go and I will try and find a low number.’ That is exactly what he did after three exasperating rounds. Sharma had been playing well, or at least making an intense effort without the numbers to show for it.
In the final round though, Shubhankar would leave only after restoring his confidence. He needs all the energy needed, what with having to play for four more weeks, on top of the six that he has already done on the road.
Shubhankar made a lone birdie on the front nine, at the 8th hole. But after taking 33 strokes to navigate the first nine, he threw caution to the wind. He made three birdies in five holes from the 11th to work his way up the order. An unfortunate bogey at the 17th stalled his resolute march, but he accounted for the loss with a fine birdie at the final hole to end the week on his own terms.
The Indian made five birdies and a lone bogey in his final round 67 to end the week inside the top 50 of this European Tour event. It was an important finish for Shubhankar, who is dreaming about a grandstand finish in Dubai two weeks from now.