The British Open: Shubhankar ready to tee off against world No. 1 Koepka

Shubhankar Sharma, who turns 23 on Sunday, practised in typical Irish weather on Wednesday and said the golfers could expect similar weather for the rest of the week.

Shubhankar Sharma during practice at Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland.   -  Reuters

India’s Shubhankar Sharma will tee off along side world no. 1 American Brooks Koepka and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuzien at the British Open golf tournament here on Thursday.

Shubhankar, playing in his second Open and only his fifth Major start, will tee off in the company of Koepka, who has won four Majors in his last nine Major starts, and Oosthuzien, who won the 2010 Open at St Andrews, and is the current Africa no. 1.

Shubhankar got the real taste of Northern Ireland’s wet and windy weather as he went out to practice on Wednesday.

After two glorious days on Monday and Tuesday, when Shubhankar played seven and 18 holes, the 22-year-old, who turns 23 this Sunday, played in typical Irish weather.

The conditions are not expected to be benign for most part of the week of the 148th Open Championships, the world's oldest Major which returns to Portrush after a gap of 68 years.

“Today was just the kind of weather we could get for much of the week, so we need to play accordingly and make club and shot selections keeping that in mind,” said Shubhankar after the practice round.

Read: Royal Portrush ready for a sprinkling of Molinari magic?

In the past 16 months or so, Shubhankar has played with some of the biggest names of the world. He has played with Koepka in the past (in 2013 in India), but that was another time and age when the Indian was making his pro debit and Koepka was in the starting years of his pro career.

The 2018 Open has been the only Major where Shubhankar has made the cut and finished tied 51st.

“It will be great to have a nice finish and good week. It will be the best birthday present I can get, just like making the cut on my debut at The Open was last year,” said Shubhankar, who has his coach Jesse Grewal by his side.

Shubhankar has had an up-and-down season this year, but comes into the Open with the confidence of a good week at the Scottish Open, where he shot good scores on the last three days and ended tied 34th.

“I felt good and the game was in a good place,” he Sharma.

“I played here in different conditions, but in Links golf, one cannot make any major strategy. You have play according to the conditions, but it is always interesting as there are many options and you have to choose the right, considering many different things.”

Shubhankar’s only top 10 this year was second at a domestic Indian Tour event and his best otherwise has been tied 27th at the Hero Indian Open and tied 29th at Dubai Desert Classic.

He was also tied 30th at Malaysian Championships, which he won in 2018 en route to becoming a global star and entered top 100 in the world.

He reached a peak of 64 and has since dropped to 196th. He was tied 34th in Scottish Open last week.

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