11 February 2019: The PGTI Tour received a shot in the arm with the entry of Shubhankar Sharma into the 2019 PGTI Players Championship. The 118th ranked Indian will play this week in preparation for his return to the WGC Mexico Championship, where he was the leader through 54 holes before finishing T9 last season.
The Indian domestic tour is running on a fresh pair of legs with the introduction of OWGR points for the top five finishes in each event. S Chikkarangappa won the first ever points on the PGTI Tour when he won the Golconda Masters last week.
Points though, will be the last thing on the mind of Shubhankar when he tees off at the Classic Golf and Country Club outside Delhi. The top ranked Indian has suffered a mixed bag of results recently – while he collected a couple of top ten finishes at the CIMB Classic and the Hong Kong Open, he has also missed the cut in three of his last four events.
Shubhankar will be looking to pick up some rhythm and practice before plunging headlong into attempting an encore at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Naucalpan, a suburb to the west of Mexico. The fairytale gained wings at this venue last year when Shubhankar added a thrilling run on his PGA TOUR debut, adding to the victories in Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur at that time.
“I was returning home from the middle east and thought it might be a good idea to play the Players Championship,” said Shubhankar. “I am looking to gain some practice before I go to the WGC Mexico Championship. I am also very happy to be playing at home after more than a year and am looking forward to a good week among friends.”
That performance earned Shubhankar a special invitation from the Masters, helping the young golfer realise a life long dream to play at the Augusta National Golf Club. He would go on to play all four majors, including a stirring Friday performance at the Open Championshiplater in the year.
“We have worked on a few things in my swing and game,” added Shubhankar. “I am really eager to test the changes out this week. One of my main goals this week, besides trying to win, is to make these changes bear fruit.”
With the second event on the PGTI calendar starting on Tuesday, the setting is perfect for Shubhankar to gain some valuable practice and playing time before departing for Mexico.
The event will be without Chikkarangappa, last week’s winner; Khalin Joshi and Viraj Madappa are also not playing as they are away in Perth for the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth, a combined Asian and European Tour event.
Rashid Khan, Udayan Mane, Honey Baisoya, Mukesh Kumar, Shamim Khan and Karandeep Kochhar are all in the field. Sri Lankan trio of Anura Rohana, N Thangaraja and Mithun Perera as well as Australian Kunal Bhasin and Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah are also hunting for success on the Indian tour.