Shubhankar Sharma promises to open a new world in golf

Shubhankar’s feats could leave us breathless too in a year or two if they haven’t done so already.

Shubhankar Sharma’s 10 birdies on the final day saw him stun the golfing world with a sensational come-from-behind victory in the $3 million Maybank Championship in Malaysia on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

As he pulled out one birdie after another, as if from a magical hat, in the final round in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Shubhankar Sharma could have turned breathless in excitement. But the 21-year-old knows how to handle such things.

“I try to think less and try to concentrate on my breath as much as possible. I do a lot of breathing exercises while going to the next hole, always. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, it helps me,” said the Chandigarh-based golfer in a telephone chat with Sportstar on Tuesday.

Shubhankar’s feats could leave us breathless too in a year or two if they haven’t done so already. His 10 birdies on the final day saw him stun the golfing world with a sensational come-from-behind victory in the $3 million Maybank Championship in Malaysia on Sunday.

The win, his second title in the European Tour (and Asian Tour) after the triumph in Johannesburg’s Joburg Open in December, helped him jump from last week’s 193rd spot to 72nd in the new world golf rankings. That has made him the top Indian in the list, ahead of Anirban Lahiri (76th). His ranking was 202 at the end of the last year and 517 after 2016.

READ: Last two months have been life-changing: Shubhankar

If his early promise is any indication, Shubankar appears to be on course to become the country’s best golfer ever, perhaps a World’s top ten (India’s best, Jeev Milkha Singh, former World No. 28).

“Things have changed so much for me in the past two months, anything is possible. Right now, if I win again, I will close to the top 40. Even if I finish in the top 10 twice, I could get into the top 50. So, I just have to keep my head down and keep playing,” said Shubhankar, a Tiger Woods fan.

Is a top 10 possible in the next two or three years? “Absolutely, but thinking about it will not help.”

Probably his biggest test will come in this July’s British Open, the oldest major, in Scotland. Does he expect a top 10 finish there? “Absolutely, why not…two good rounds will win me any tournament and now that I’m doing well, I know I have the game.”

ALSO READ: Sharma fires 62 to surge to Maybank Championship win

Shubhankar’s wins in Johannesburg and Kuala Lumpur, which have carried him to the top of the European Tour, came in tough windy conditions. The conditions at The Open are normally very windy too.

“It will be very windy there. Joburg wasn’t very windy but last week was pretty windy. But the British Open will be very different because the Links course is very different compared to what we play outside. But playing a few events, like the Irish Open and the Scottish Open on Links courses in June will give me some practice before The Open, so it should be nice.”

There is something about Shubhankar that reminds one about badminton stars Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu…perhaps a certain fearlessness and a hunger to go all the way. There is a certain calm about him too which comes with meditation.

ALSO READ: PGTI Cochin Masters: Saqib maintains lead

“We’ve been a very religious family, everyone at home does a bit of meditation. I do it whenever I feel I’m clouded in my mind.”

Shubhankar took to golf as a six-year-old in Wellington, Ooty, where his dad M. L. Sharma, an army colonel, was posted. And he has always been in a hurry. His first pro title came at the Cochin Masters in 2014 when he was just 17, making him the youngest winner of a PGTI title.

That gave Shubhankar an early start and with his coaches Jesse Grewal and Gurbaaz Mann (for club issues) guiding him, now he is going places. And golf is an Olympic sport too!

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