A dream come true for Sharma
Thunderstorms in South Africa meant Shubhankar Sharma had to wait until Monday to claim victory in the Joburg Open.
In topping the leaderboard at Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg he also bagged a place at the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie next July. Three places were up for grabs as part of The Open Qualifying Series and Sharma was joined in securing his spot at Carnoustie by runner-up Erik van Rooyen and Shaun Norris who finished in a tie for third.
Still only 21, Sharma has long been pinpointed as the next top golf prospect to come out of India. As a 17-year-old he finished fourth at the Panasonic Open in his home country back in 2014 and earlier this year cracked the top ten of the Bangladesh Open. The latter finish prompted Arjun Atwal – a former Asian Tour No.1 – to label Sharma as the ‘real deal.’ And now Sharma – only the fourth non-South African winner of the Joburg Open – will follow in Atwal’s footsteps as the latest Indian golfer to compete at The Open – a list that includes Jeev Milkha Singh and Anirban Lahiri.
Dream come true
Considering Sharma weighed up not going to South Africa for the Joburg Open after a long and tiring season, Monday marked a special day for the Indian. Sharma – who fired a 61 in the second round and became the first player since the four-time major winner Rory McIlroy to reach 20 under par through 54 holes in a European Tour event – coped with the weather admirably. He returned on Monday after the rain storms and his putter remained hot as a final round 69 won him the title on his first ever trip to South Africa and sealed his dream of playing at The Open.
Erik van Rooyen
The runner-up in Johannesburg was South African native Erik van Rooyen, who capped off a fantastic 2017 by securing his place at The Open - his first-ever major appearance. The 27-year-old arrived back home still thrilled at having gained his European Tour card for the 2018 season with his third place finish on the Challenge Tour Race to Oman. He opted to skip The AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open last week to come back to South Africa early and rest up for the Joburg Open with one eye on qualifying for The Open. That decision has paid off for the University of Minnesota alumni who claimed his first win of year in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship back in February.
Shaun Norris was the third person to seal his spot at The 147th Open. Golf fans will recognise the South African for his fine efforts at The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale last July. Now 35, Norris was playing his first ever major championship last year in Southport, qualifying by virtue of his top two finish on the 2017 Japan Golf Tour Official Money List. Norris finished in a tie for 62nd however his impressive third round 65 will remain his highlight of the week. This time around he qualifies as a man in strong form with his third top-ten finish on the European Tour and on the Japan Tour he has secured five top-six finishes in his last seven starts.