Matt Wallace becomes first Englishman to win Indian Open; Shubhankar finishes tied seventh

Matt Wallace became the first Englishman to win the $1.75 million Hero Indian Open title here on Sunday while ace Indian Shubhankar Sharma finished tied seventh.

The Hero Indian Open is Matt Wallace's second title on the European Tour, having won the Portugal Open in 2017.   -  Special Arrangement

Amid mounting tension, Matt Wallace's aggressive approach on the playoff-hole paid off. The resultant birdie made him the first Englishman to win the $1.75 million Hero Indian Open title here on Sunday. On the 624-yard par-five 18th hole, the 26-year-old fired his second shot over the vast water body and reached the green.

In contrast, compatriot Andrew Johnston preferred to lay-up and stayed well behind the lake. Once on the green, Johnston’s birdie-putt lipped out. This left Wallace with two shots to win. And he did, to collect the winner’s share of $291,660.

For third-round co-leader Shubhankar Sharma, it was meltdown time for the second successive Sunday.

He started the final day as a joint leader with Matt Wallace but two double-bogeys over three holes on the front-nine took him out of contention. He endured a third double-bogey on the back-nine. Overall, very little worked for Shubhankar, who had set the course record on Friday. In fact, his six birdies against three double-bogeys and three bogeys pushed him down tied seventh place.

Last week at the WGC Mexico Championship, too, Shubhankar began as a leader, armed with a two-shot lead, but eventually finished tied ninth to collect $48,125.

“I’m obviously disappointed,” said Shubhankar and continued, “I was just trying to keep up with Matt. He was playing so well. I made a bad swing on the fifth hole, which put me out of contention. I was trying to come back, but I made another bad swing on the seventh. You can’t really drop too many shots on this course and I dropped nine today.
Disappointments are part of the game. It’ll just make me stronger. The next time I’m in this situation, I’ll do better.”

By sheer coincidence, if last week it was Phil Mickelson who played in the leaders’ group with Shubhankar and won the title following a first-hole playoff, Wallace did likewise on this day!

An interesting finale was ensured once Johnston caught up with Wallace at 11-under after carding a flawless six-under 66. This could not be anticipated when Wallace jumped to 12-under after the 10th hole to lead Johnston by three shots.

On the remaining eight holes, Wallace found par on seven holes and bogeyed the 16th. Johnston, playing a group ahead of Wallace, birdied the 13th and 17th holes to leave Wallace worried. A par on the 18th from Wallace set up the playoff, where he appeared like a champion much before the winning birdie-putt.

“I played great,” said Wallace who won his second title on the European Tour 32 weeks after being triumphant in the Portugal Open. “Ever since being three-over through eight (holes) at the start of the week, I’ve played some of the best golf of my life and to do it in that style at the end there, capped it off.”

Asked about his approach on the playoff hole, the champion said, “I never thought of playing it safe during the playoff, even during regulation-play when I was farther out. I was swinging it that good. I feel that my long iron-play this week was the best part of my game, so as soon as I was all the way down on the end of the fairway, I was going to hit an iron and go for the green.”

The scores:

277 – Andrew Johnston (Eng) (72, 66, 73, 66), Matt Wallace (Eng) (69, 70, 70, 68) (Wallance wins first playoff-hole); 280 – Kim Sihwan (USA) (70, 70, 72, 68); 281 – Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) (67, 71, 74, 69), Matthias Schwab (Aut) (71, 72, 68, 70); 283 – Emiliano Grillo (Arg) (65, 68, 78, 72); 284 – Stephen Gallacher (Sco) (72, 71, 67, 74), Shubhankar Sharma (73, 64, 72, 75).

Other Indians: 293 – Jyoti Randhawa (72, 72, 76, 73), Kshitij Naveed Kaul (70, 76, 77, 70); 294 – Anirban Lahiri (72, 73, 75, 74); 295 – Khalin Joshi (72, 68, 81, 74), Ajeetesh Sandhu (68, 76, 74, 77); 297 – Karandeep Kochhar (75, 72, 76, 74); 299 – Udayan Mane (72, 75, 79, 73).

 

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