Tour de force


Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma has gone from zero to hero in just two months.

After failing to secure his European Tour card at the Tour’s Qualifying School in Spain in November, the 21-year-old Shubhankar has now become a two-time champion on both the European and Asian Tours.

He won his maiden title at the Joburg Open in December and yesterday, he stunned the star-studded field to lift the Maybank Championship.

The Chandigarh-born lad overcame a four-shot deficit by firing a sublime 10-under 62 to finish two strokes clear of Jorge Campillo of Spain at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.

He not only bettered the tournament record of 19-under set by last year’s winner Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay, but also became the first Asian winner after three editions.

“I’m over the moon,” said Shubhankar, who walked away with the US$500,000 (RM1.94mil) top prize.

“What happened today was fantastic. I never thought I would win today.

“I was four shots off the leaders. I didn’t go in with the mindset to win but just to shoot a low round. That really helped me today.”

Being four shots behind joint leaders Campillo and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli didn’t bother Shubhankar as he birdied eight times on the 11-hole stretch starting from the fourth to grab the lead and he never looked back.

Shubhankar finished in style by closing with two more birdies, including at the last hole where he made a sand save.

“I kept pushing the whole day. I knew I had to make a lot birdies to catch the leaders,” he explained.

“I had a two-shot lead on the 16th, so I told myself I needed one more birdie and I made a very nice birdie on the 17th.

“The ball was in the greenside bunker on the 18th. I was just telling myself don’t mess this up, don’t duff it or top it. I pulled it off.”

When asked which victories meant more to him, he replied: “Both my wins are very special. The last two months have been fantastic for me, so I can’t ask for anything more.

“I’ve always dreamt of winning and now I’m a two-time winner on the Asian and European Tour.”

Campillo’s title drought continued despite starting brilliantly with an eagle in the opening hole but a bogey on the ninth paved the way for Shubhankar to overtake him for the title. It was Campillo’s fourth runner-up finish on the European Tour.

“It’s tough to beat someone who shoots a 10-under. I kept trying but I’ve finished second again. It’s way too many times,” said Campillo, who has completed 196 tournaments without a win.