Sharma carded an eight-over-par 80 to take tied-41st, while Matt Wallace (68), who lead earlier in the week, ended tied-second to round off a brilliant year that included three wins, starting from the Hero Indian Open.
He tied-second with Patrick Reed (70) on a 16-under-par 272 total, just two shots behind winner England’s Danny Willett (68) at the Jumeriah Golf Estates. This result should see Wallace get into Top-50 of the world.
Italian Francesco Molinari, who has been Europe’s superstar of 2018, was crowned Europe’s Number One and the winner of the Race to Dubai. Molinari carded a final round 71 to end his campaign in tied-26th.
After Korea’s Byeonghun An won in 2015 and Jeunghun Wang in 2016, Sharma is the third Asian player to become Europe’s Rookie of the year in a span of four years. Last year it was Jon Rahm of Spain, who went on to win the DP World Tour Championships.
Sharma would have wanted a happier final round on a day when nothing went right to save the finish on the Rookies’ race, but in the end, he ended his maiden season on the European Tour on a profitable note.
Apart from the two titles he won early in the season, the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award and a 28th place finish on the Race to Dubai, he was also guaranteed a place at the Open at Royal Portrush next year.
Sharma became the first Indian to win the Rookie honours in Asia, although three Indians – Arjun Atwal (1995), Shiv Kapur (2005) and C Muniyappa (2009) have emerged as Rookie of the Year on the Asian Tour.
Sharma is also currently leading the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings and is in line to emulate Jyoti Randhawa (2002), Atwal (2003), Jeev Milkha Singh (2006 and 2008) and Anirban Lahiri (2015) who have lifted the crown before him.
The 2013 Asian Tour number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand carded a 69 to grab his second successive top-10 finish at the season-ending event. He birdied four of his opening eight holes and came as close as tied-second at one stage, but bogeys on 12th and 16th saw him drop down and despite a closing birdie on 18th, he ended in tied-ninth.
Australia’s Wade Ormsby (75), who raised visions of a fine finish as he started from seven-under to move to nine-under with two birdies in first five holes, but then slid down with a double on sixth and three bogeys in his last four holes.
The smiling Wallace said, “I played great. Dug in. Gave myself a great chance. It was tough out there, I thought, and on 17 I was in-between clubs for me. So, I didn’t hit a great shot and got up-and-down. It was a good save and then played the last really well.”
He added, “I am really happy with how I held myself. Just frustrated to come up short.”
He had a good pitch shot on the 14th and he tried to land it close to give himself an eagle chance but it was just short, though he did get a birdie. He also birdied 18th.
Talking on how he held out in a tense situation, Wallace added, “I am absolutely happy. Looks like that double-bogey on eight probably cost me which is frustrating because it was the wrong play off the tee, the wrong process, but I’ve come out strong. As I said yesterday and I forgot about yesterday; I’ve come out strong and am really proud of myself and hopefully this can put me up into the Top-50 of the world.”
Willett ended a near 32-month title drought with a hard-fought win that saw him birdie three times between 14th and 17th and survive a tee shot landing that was within inches of dropping into the creek on the 18th.
Willett, who once rose as high as number nine in the world, came this week with a world ranking of 276. He had dropped to as low as 462nd in the week of this year BMW PGA, which interestingly was won by Molinari. Willett went through a tough 953 winless days as injuries and lack of form saw him drop off the edge in a manner of speaking. But he is now a Rolex champion and could rightfully look at a resurgence, as he was also tied seven two weeks ago in Turkey.
Molinari had a very special year with his maiden Major at The Open in Carnoustie; his maiden title on PGA Tour in the US, the BMW PGA title on European Tour; five out of five points in Ryder Cup and now the Race to Dubai honours itself.
Molinari’s nearest rival for the Race to Dubai honours, defending champion Tommy Fleetwood (68) who needed to win and also see Molinari finish below fifth, did see the second part happening, but he himself finished only tied-16th and settled for second place in the
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