Shubhankar Sharma is hopeful that going in under the radar can help him the lift the trophy on home soil this week at the Hero Indian Open.
“This was my home course for the longest time, and it feels great to be back on familiar ground and I stay very close to the golf course, so all my family is here to watch me.
“The course is playing much better than last year. Most of the players I’ve spoken to have been happy with how the course is. I am obviously a lot more mature this year and really enjoying my game. I just want to get back into the groove again of playing at my best again.
“It would mean the world to me, the Hero Indian Open is very special to us Indians, especially to win on a course that has supported me in my career. And to join the past Indian winners that I have idolised since I was young has always been my goal. Hopefully everything goes well this week and we’ll see what happens.”
Rewind 12 months and the local hero was riding a wave as arguably the hottest name in golf having claimed his first two European titles in quick succession and finished in the top ten in his maiden World Golf Championships event in Mexico.
After leaving New Delhi he flew back west for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then made his Major Championship debut at the Masters Tournament having been handed a special invitation to tee it up at Augusta National. With all that going on, he could have been forgiven for being tired at DLF Golf and Country Club but he equalled the course record in round two en route to a top ten finish.
Scott Hend claimed his third European Tour title in dramatic fashion at the Maybank Championship last week in Kuala Lumpur and the Australian has his sights set on an improved performance in Delhi off the back of that victory.
“It took a fair while for it to sink in that I had actually won, and I didn’t really enjoy it until yesterday morning when I was sitting at the airport in Bangkok on my way here. It was a pretty busy Sunday afternoon and Monday I had a really bad headache from heatstroke, didn’t even get a chance to celebrate, so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind trip here and now it’s time to enjoy it.
“I find it a daunting golf course. I wouldn’t say tricky or difficult, it’s just that if you hit a bad shot here you are going to be penalised. If I don’t hit the ball how I want to, I am just going to make a double or triple bogey somewhere and it is a course where you can’t over power it. You still have to be in control of your golf ball and plot your way around the course.
“I really want to win a tournament in Europe. I’ve won in North America, Australia and all through Asia, and I haven’t won in Europe as yet. I have lost two play-offs which was bitterly disappointing, but I still have my goals to achieve and I want to win on the European continent but to win here in India with a lot of Indian friends, it would be special because in terms of national opens this is such a prestigious tournament, it has been going for such a long time and to get your name on that trophy would be an honour and a privilege.”
The 45 year old, who now sits inside the top ten of the 2019 Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex, has struggled with the Gary Player designed course in the past, however has an impressive track record in Asia with all three European Tour victories coming from this continent.
One man who has tasted victory in this event is Anirban Lahiri, who won it in 2015 when it joined the Race to Dubai, having been first staged in 1964.
“It’s always wonderful to be back home, having marsala for breakfast. I’ve just missed this. Every time I come back, I have happy memories, having played well in this tournament for a number of years. It’s also interesting to see all the young kids coming out and grown on Tour. I always look forward to playing this event.
“My game has been a bit inconsistent, but it is moving in the right direction. I’ve had a couple of bad weekends, but I have managed to single out the problems which need to be fixed and I just need to pull it together and stay focused. I need to clean up my process on the weekend rounds. The problem with me is I always try too hard and losing my rhythm in that process.
S S P Chawrasia won it in the next two seasons before Matt Wallace broke the home dominance last term, but two time European Tour winner Lahiri is confident he can challenge to bring the title home if he can stay relaxed over the weekend.