14 October 2019: Sometimes it takes endless hours of persistent digging before we can discover the key to happiness. No one understands that better than Shubhankar Sharma, who has endured a rough patch straight after playing some of the finest golf of his young career. The 23-year-old seems to have finally found the answers he has been searching for, if the BMW PGA Championship (T17) and the Italian Open (T7) are any indication.
Since finishing T6 in the Hong Kong Open last November, Shubhankar missed ten cuts in 23 starts through the Italian Open. On the other 13 occasions, he could not even breach the top twenty, despite some dogged golf around the world. Of course, this excludes a confidence boosting T2 in the PGTI Players Championship, but that was a domestic PGTI Tour event towards the end of the last year.
But despite some bruising Sunday results, Shubhankar refused to flinch and kept plodding away like a resilient warrior who would not hesitate to cross the river on a single arm. Ranked 116th after the Hong Kong Open, he slipped to 330th in the world two weeks ago. The seven and a bit points he earned last week helped him back to 266th, but the race is only just beginning.
The top two golfers will represent India in the Olympics next year. At the moment, Shubhankar is marginally ahead of Rashid Khan (268), with Gaganjeet Bhullar (275) and Anirban Lahiri (344) in hot pursuit. Ajeetesh Sandhu has been in spectacular form recently, missing victory by a solitary shot in the Taiwan Masters. Even though he has ways to go from his current perch of 455, behind Chikkarangappa (400), if his current form is any indication, he could still give the front runners a run for their money.
But even as the battle lines are drawn, it is Shubhankar and Rashid that are shining brightest.
The latter has been a revelation, producing a stellar run of results despite some lingering issues surrounding his ongoing battles with the Delhi Golf Club. He rose to the top of the rankings for Indian golfers when he finished T5 in the Taiwan Masters, only to be pushed back into second by Shubhankar.
In Italy last week, Shubhankar gained 2.31 strokes with his approach, topping the charts on that count. His effort underlined the fact that he showed great finesse with his second shot despite making just a 72 in the third round. With form like that and some excellent golf at the BMW PGA Championship and the Italian Open, the Indian could be set for another remarkable run over the next few months.