Hoylake, 19 July 2023: The Open constitutes all of Shubhankar Sharma’s dreams in golf. It is an event that stoked his aspirations as a child, watching the event wide-eyed on television when he returned from school. Sharma retains an incomparable fondness for the event, harbouring a profound desire to excel on the grandest stage of golf. In his sixth major appearance and third at the Open, Shubhankar expects to return his best result yet, and with a bit of luck contend for the big prize on Sunday, his birthday.
As in the past for the Open, he is living with the family this week. “I am happy to be here with my coach and family,” said Shubhankar. “First, I get to enjoy my mother’s cooking. And there are people to sit down and talk to, stuff other than golf as well. I have been away from home for nearly three months, so it is a nice feeling knowing that I actually look forward to going back to the accommodation after practice or a round of golf.”
Links golf is the purest test of golf, according to most players. Just the sheer variety of shots available or needed to prevail over the course, the weather and the wind add to the drama of the sport. Shubhankar played nine holes each on Monday and Tuesday, under the watchful eyes of Jesse Grewal, his coach. After getting a feel for the course and conditions, Shubhankar believes that finding the fairway off the tee and keeping out of the sand traps can offer significant rewards this week.
The Little Eye at 17 has been on many people’s mind this week. It wasn’t any different for Shubhankar.
“It’s a very small landing area and you’d be very happy if you’re on the green every day for four days,” suggested the Indian. There are bunkers on both sides, and dangers lurk around the green with any miss. It’s not a very long hole, but if it blows very hard, it could take a six or seven iron to manage the 140 yards to this exciting pin.”
Shubhankar is going to turn 27 by the end of this week. He has already eleven years of professional golf on his bag. He has been in Europe for almost five or six years, and the journey has produced a medley of emotions for the young man.
“A long season, you know, teaches you enough about yourself about the game and how you can get better. So in all aspects, I feel like I’m growing, getting better and better at handling pressure now,” said Shubhankar. “I think I am better at handling disappointments and the highs that I’ve had to learn. So yeah, it’s taught me a lot. And you know, just playing here in Europe with some of the best players in the world is a real blessing.”
The T5 of Anirban Lahiri at the 2015 PGA Championship remains the peak Indian performance at a major. Shubhankar hopes that he has the game this week to emulate his seniors and perhaps even better the results, if he can dial his A game on all four days at Hoylake. Staying only a 15 minute walk away from the course, Shubhankar is hoping that the cocoon of affection from his parents, mama’s food and banter with his doting sister will give him the energy needed to thrive and prosper.
He will tee off on Thursday, at the very end of the train. Shubhankar plays with Kalle Samooja of Finland and American Gunner Wiebe. The troika will play in the 50th of 52 groups at 0354pm local time (0824pm in India).