13 June, 2018: Fans are set to lose a few nights sleep and we are not even talking football here. Shubhankar Sharma has put Indian golf centrestage this season with his exploits in Asia, Africa and North America. But he is set for the trickiest challenge of his young career when he sets out to play the US Open this week.
The second major on the golfing calendar prides itself for tormenting golfers, extracting the last ounce of energy before they sign on the score for one last time on Sunday. The fact that Brooks Koepka in 2017 and Rory McIlroy in 2011 ravaged the event with commanding performances, hasn’t gone down well with the USGA. Both men emerged champions with a US Open record 16-under overall score.
The USGA reached out to Shinnecock Hills a few weeks ago to ensure that the fairways were strengthened by replacing some of the fairway grass with thick fescue. The course this week is widely regarded as one of the best in USA and nothing short of a probing inquiry will please the USGA.
Temperament is key this week, considering the relentless nature of the examination on this brilliant course. Each stroke needs to be played with the full presence of the golfer, mind and body tested at every moment.
That might work in the favour of Shubhankar, who has shown he has the grit and determination needed to succeed on the biggest stages of golf. The manner in which he announced himself to the world with a stellar showing in the WGC Mexico Championship, where he held the 54 hole lead, underlines the fact that he is not the kind that blinks.
“The US Open is the first major, I thought of qualifying into as a professional. It took a third attempt, so it feels like I have been here before,” said an optimistic Shubhankar to Golfing Indian.
“The wind will change a lot of things. If it gets windy, shots off the tee will hold the key. The rough is absolutely unforgiving. So, I am looking forward to an interesting and enriching week. I have a feeling that the week is going to be good for me and all of us back home.”
As usual, his family is by Shubhankar’s side this week too. The 21 year old has a great bond with his father, who is also the young man’s best friend. Their presence should give him the strength needed to pursue his dreams.
Shubhankar tees off from the first hole at 1754hrs on 14 June. Patrick Rodgers of the USA and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen will keep him company through the first two rounds.