Masters win will prove I was worthy of invite: Shubhankar Sharma
There is a 330-yard driveway, flanked by 60 lush and towering magnolia trees, that is open only to a select high and mighties of the society as they enter the Augusta National Golf Club – one of the most revered and exclusive golf clubs in the world.
Come the second week of April, Magnolia Lane is opened up to the 80 odd participants of the Masters – the first major of the season. Playing Augusta National is on the bucket list of every golfer in the world, but securing an invite to play the Masters is a privilege only for the elite in professional golf.
An invite is a clear indication of his status in the Royal & Ancient sport. If a golfer is driving down the Magnolia Lane in the second week of April, it has a great significance in his career – it means he has arrived in his chosen field.
However, as India’s Shubhankar Sharma – quite remarkably – earned that right at a very young age of 21, he insists this is just the beginning of his journey.
“I am humbled by the fact that the Masters Committee felt I am good enough to be handed a special invitation. Playing the Masters would be the biggest moment of my career so far, it is my first major after all, but I know there are many more to come in the future,” says Sharma, currently leading the Order of Merit on both the European and Asian Tours.
“It’s been a kind of whirlwind for me these last few months. Things have changed so much after the two wins I have had on the European Tour. The Masters invite is the biggest thing that has happened to me, but I have a lot to prove.
“The short-term goal is that I want to prove to the tournament that I was worthy of the invitation. The long-term goal is to make sure I am back here year after year on my own.
“And the best way to do that is to win the Green Jacket. Can I do it this year? I believe so. I believe I belong at this stage. I believe I can contend in majors and win.”
There is a lot of interest surrounding Sharma here at Augusta, even though there are so many astounding storylines going into the tournament – headlined, of course, by the return to near-vintage form by Tiger Woods.
Among the media clamour for him – he appeared on NBC Golf’s special Masters coverage on Monday apart from several other television channels – two announcements indicate the growing stature of Sharma in world golf.
At the start of this week, Nike Golf have signed him up as one of their Elite athletes in a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal – thus pitchforking him in the same bracket as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Also, Wasserman, one of the leading golf management companies in the US that looks after the interests of players like Rickie Fowler, have signed up to look after his commercial interests.
“These things are bound to happen if you are playing well. I look at it as an honour and also as a responsibility,” says Sharma.
“I want to be a good ambassador for whoever I am representing. But what is paramount for me, and I know each of my sponsors would also think on similar lines, is that I perform well on the golf course. I will use all of this as motivation to become a better player.”
India wins Nidahas Trophy
COLOMBO, March 18; Bangladesh were on the cusp of breaking their T20 hoodoo against India in the Nidahas Trophy T20 tri-series final on Sunday. Vijay Shankar (17) and Manish Pandey (28) were struggling and the asking rate had mounted.
India needed 34 off 12 balls and it looked like a lost cause. Pandey’s departure though brought Dinesh Karthik at No 7. Rubel Hossain, who had picked 2/13 in three overs, was about to bowl the 19th over.
What followed was a masterclass from Karthik which changed the complexion of the game. The India wicketkeeper got off the mark by blasting a low full toss over long on for six and followed it up with a powerful blow to long on for four. The batsman hammered another length ball over deep mid wicket for his second six and ended the over with a scoop to the fine leg fence. With 22 runs coming off Bangladesh’s best bowler, India’s hopes rose.
In the final over bowled by Soumya Sarkar, Vijay Shankar squeezed a boundary off the fourth ball but fell as India were left needing five off the last ball. However, Karthik demonstrated his finishing ability and carved a full ball high over sweeper cover for his third six to seal the match.
Bangladesh, asked to bat first by Rohit Sharma, had scored 166/8 and India finished on 168/6.
Delhi, Mumbai Host Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup
By Deepak Arora
NEW DELHI, March 14: Turkish Airlines, a global leader in civil aviation, brought its ever-growing Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup to the Willingdon Sports Club in Mumbai and to Classic Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon, India on March 9 and March 10 respectively.
Flying to 121 countries through more than 300 destinations worldwide, the airline
prides itself on its award-winning Business Class service and its commitment to the Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup, which has more than 8,000 invited guests competing in more than 100 tournaments around the world, together with many other innovative and distinguished services, performed for offering its passengers an unparalleled flight experience.
Turkish Airlines is firmly committed to the aspirational vision of sporting competition
and trusts in its ability to unite people around the values of sportsmanship through friendly competition.
That support extends from football, basketball, rugby and golf at all levels and the
amateur series is a fine example of this from the carrier, which offers a multiple award-winning Business Class service and allows guests to take clubs for free.
The Mumbai event was well supported by the local business community and Atul
Laul (President, Reliance), S Rengarajan (MD and CEO, ILFS Securities), Harish Daswani
(MD, Charagh Din), Pradeep Shah (MD, Manugraph India Ltd) were among the competitors
at Willingdon Sports Club. In the playing field were other famous participants like Kolkata Knight Riders CEO and MD Venky Mysore along with Co-owner Jai Mehta, Former India Cricketer Ajit Agarkar and Musician Raghav Sachar who added a touch of glamour to the event which was played in a friendly atmosphere and the camaraderie.
The New Delhi leg was also well attended and saw participation from over 90
corporates like, Brig. HS Kaura (Senior VP, National Administration, KPMG), Anmol Puri
(Director, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP), Manoj Sharan (CEO, Cushman & Wakefield), Anurag Gupta (Vice President, American Express) amongst others.
With this year’s tournament which is backed by The Financial Times, National, Titanic Hotels and clothing partner Ruck & Maul, the winners of the qualifiers progress to the Grand Finals in Antalya in November, when they have the chance to secure a place in the Turkish Airlines Open pro-am, will fly Business Class in Turkish Airlines and stay at the five-star Titanic Golf Deluxe Hotel.
Anuj Thapar (Director, Aspher Foods Pvt Ltd ) will represent Mumbai there after
winning the competition with 47 points, while Anand Menon (CEO, EAL Consulting India) was runner-up, and Satish Gupta (Director, Atrac Engineering Co. LLC) was third. The
Nearest the Pin competition on the 12th hole was won by Rahul Sood for the men and
Brinda Shah for the women. Akshay Kilachand won the best gross score with three over
New Delhi Winners
Siddharth Jain (Managing Director, Turner International India Pvt Ltd) will
represent New Delhi there after winning the competition with 43 points, while Rajeev
Mittal (Vice President, Oracle) was runner-up, and Punit Beriwala (Managing Director,
Vipul TechSquare) was third. The Nearest the Pin competition on the 17th hole was won
by R.S. Rawal. Siddharth Jain won the best gross score with three over par 77.
Congratulating the winners, Mr. Ibrahim Hakki Guntay, General Manager West and
South India and Mr. Ozer Guler, General Manager, North & East India, said “We would
like to thank all of our guests who made the Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup a huge
success. Once again, it was a fantastic tournament in the TAWGC series and
congratulations to our winners. We wish them the best of luck in Antalya.”
Turkish Ambassador Sakir Ozkan Toruniar and Turkish Airlines General Manager Ozer Guler gave away the prizes to winners at the ITC Classic Golf Course.
Els, Woods named captains for the 2019 Presidents Cup in Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne (Australia), Ponte Vedra Beach (Florida), March 12: Presidents Cup and PGA TOUR officials today announced Ernie Els and Tiger Woods as captains of the International and U.S. Teams, respectively, for the 2019 Presidents Cup at The Royal Melbourne Golf Course in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
While both will be first-time captains at the event, the two are the most experienced captains in terms of Presidents Cup competition and were the primary figures in the 2003 event held in South Africa, where Woods and Els competed in a dramatic sudden-death playoff that ultimately ended in a tie and the two teams sharing the Cup.
Els has competed in the Presidents Cup eight times (1996, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013), tied for most by an International Team member. Woods, also an eight-time U.S. Presidents Cup Team member (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013), holed the winning putt for the United States in 2009, 2011 and 2013 – the only player to clinch the Cup three times. Both Woods and Els served as captain’s assistants for their respective teams in 2017.
“Ernie Els and Tiger Woods have each been part of the fabric of the Presidents Cup as competitors and as ambassadors to the event,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan.
“Ernie carries the flag for international golf as a legendary figure both on and off the golf course, while Tiger has been one of the most transcendent athletes the sport has ever seen. These two have served, and will continue to serve, as a bridge between past team members and captains who laid the foundation for the Presidents Cup and the stars of today who are embracing the hallmarks of the event – golf on a global stage, a love and passion for the game and the impact the Presidents Cup has in emerging markets and through charity.”
Super Sharma Extends Merit Lead
By Deepak Arora
NEW DELHI, March 12: Indian hotshot Shubhankar Sharma extended his advantage at the top of the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings after capping a commendable tied-seventh place finish at the US$1.75 million Hero Indian Open on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Sharma, who propelled into stardom with two victories over the last three months, had set a new course record at the DLF Golf and Country Club with a second round eight-under-par 64 before going on to cap his best result ever in his National Open.
He closed with a three-over-par 75 and a four-under-par 284 total to finish seven shots shy of making the play-off which saw Matt Wallace of England defeating countryman Andrew Johnston on the first extra hole to emerge victorious.
The young Indian talent had returned home in glory at the start of the week, having notched a tied-ninth place finish in his World Golf Championships debut at the WGC-Mexico Championship the week before, where he led by two shots in the second and third round.
Sharma continued to hog the headlines when he received a coveted invite to The 2018 Masters Tournament on Tuesday, thanks to his recent exploits. He had earlier earned a berth at The Open in July following his breakthrough win at the 2017 Joburg Open, which was part of The Open Qualifying Series.
“I am disappointed but these things happen and it is not an easy course. Even though I started well, I made a few bad swings but, in the end, it was alright. I really enjoyed the tournament and I loved the support. I would like to thank everyone for coming out to support me.
“I am happy about the way I have been playing and that I am able to get myself into contention every week. I put in a lot of hard work, and I am happy with the way things have been. Disappointments are part of the game. It will just make me stronger. The next time I’m in this situation, I’ll do better,” said Sharma, who had held a share of the overnight one-shot lead heading into the final round.
Sharma moved up two rungs to a career-high 64th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) following his solid result at the Hero Indian Open, maintaining his status as the leading Indian player in the world.
By breaking into top-64 on the OWGR as of the cut-off date on March 12, Sharma earned his second WGC appearance at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament, which will get underway at the Austin Country Club in Texas from March 21 to 25.
“I’m looking forward to playing the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament. It’ll be a good break from stroke play. The last time I won a match play event was six years ago at the All-Indian Amateur,” added Sharma.
Sihwan Kim of the United States made a huge leap from 50th to sixth position on the Habitat for Humanity Standings after recording his career-best result on the Asian Tour with a third-place finish in India.
“It was a difficult course and I didn’t expect the leaders to shoot so low. I had a number in mind this morning, and I achieved what I thought. I thought I had a pretty good chance to win, but with scores that low, that wasn’t the case.
“This result will get my confidence up, especially when playing on difficult golf courses. If I continue to play like this, then I’ll be fine. The conditions have been great and the people have been nice,” said the 29-year-old Kim, who came through the Qualifying School in 2017.
Reigning Asian Tour’s number one Gavin Green of Malaysia hopes to take the positives from his India outing where he finished tied-16th after closing with a 71. He moved to 16th place on the latest Merit rankings.
“It was an average week and I wished I had played better. I love India and I will want to come back next year. I’ve made changes to my game and it’s working out so far. I struck the ball a lot better last week and my short game got a little stronger. I just have to work on my drives, hopefully before my next event.
“I’ll be taking a nice break, then probably head over to Morocco and Spain. But for now, I’m going to chill out, have fun and enjoy my break,” said the 24-year-old Green, who became the first Malaysian to lift the Asian Tour Merit crown in 2017.
Sharma sits atop the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings with a current haul of US$548,125 while Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who claimed his third Asian Development Tour title in Brunei last week, occupies second place with US$251,173.
Paul Peterson, Daniel Nisbet and Berry Henson remained in third, fourth and fifth positions respectively on the Merit rankings following the conclusion of the Hero Indian Open, which is co-sanctioned by both the Asian Tour and the European Tour.
Wallace Beats Johnston To Win Hero Indian Open
By Deepak Arora
NEW DELHI, March 11: Matt Wallace of England defeated compatriot Andrew Johnston at the first playoff hole to win the US$1.75 million Hero Indian Open on Sunday.
The 27-year-old, who went into the fourth round with a one-shot lead with Shubhankar Sharma, started magnificently by scoring four birdies before making the turn. He made another birdie on the 10th and a bogey on the 16th before signing for four-under-par 68 at the Gary Player layout of the DLF Golf and Country Club.
Johnston put in a bogey-free performance and forced a playoff with Wallace after carding a 66, the day’s lowest score. Both golfers ended regulation play on 11-under-par 277 total.
At the first playoff hole on the 624-yard par-five 18th, Wallace hit the greens in two and made a birdie, while Johnston could only muster a par. With that, Wallace became the first Englishman to win the Hero Indian Open.
Sihwan Kim of the United States made a charge on the last day of the tournament, but he was not able to keep up with the relentless pace set by the leaders. The 2017 Asian Tour Qualifying School graduate shot five birdies and a bogey for 68 to finish the tournament in third place.
Local favourite Sharma started Sunday with two birdies through four holes. However, his tournament unravelled after double bogeys at the fifth and seventh holes. The two-time Asian Tour winner and current Habitat for Humanity Standings leader carded a 75 to finish in tied-seventh.
2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Gavin Green of Malaysia ended the Hero Indian Open on a bright note, scoring seven birdies including four successive ones from holes 14th to 17th and signing for a 71 to finish in tied-16th.
Shubhankar Sharma co-leads At Hero Indian Open on 3rd Day
NEW DELHI, March 10: Shubhankar Sharma of India kept his emotions in check and carded an even-par 72 to grab a share of the lead with England’s Matt Wallace at the US$1.75 million Hero Indian Open on Saturday.
The 21-year-old stayed patient throughout the entire round. Sharma, a two-time Asian Tour winner, dropped five shots today which included a double bogey at the 17th hole. But, responded with five birdies to get to the top of the leaderboard on seven-under-par 209 at the DLF Golf and Country Club.
Wallace carded a 70 to share first place with Sharma. He scored an eagle and four birdies against four bogeys. The pair will go into Sunday with a one-shot lead over Stephen Gallacher of Scotland, who is in lone third place after carding a 67.
Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, the halfway leader, had a day to forget as he signed for a 78. He is in tied-fourth with Austria’s Matthias Schwab (68) and England’s Andrew Johnston (73).
Crowd favourite Johnston was scrambling throughout Saturday. The Englishman did not score any birdies but kept pace with the leaders with an eagle on the fourth hole, as well as numerous up-and-downs and long putts for pars.
Sihwan Kim of the United States adopted an aggressive, yet calculated approach to card a 72. He is in tied-seven and just three shots behind the leaders along with Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal.
Chikkarangappa dreams of winning Hero Indian Open
By Deepak Arora
GURGAON, March 6: Chikkarangappa S. of India hopes to realise his childhood dream by emerging victorious at the US$1.75 million Hero Indian Open which starts on Thursday.
The Bengaluru-born golfer played in his first National Open when he was a 15-year-old amateur golfer. Now, with more competition experience and a sharper all-round game, the 24-year-old is looking to put himself into serious contention at the DLF Golf and Country Club.
Chikkarangappa, a two-time Asian Development Tour (ADT) winner, will be among an elite field as he tees up at the 54th Hero Indian Open, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the fourth consecutive year in 2018.
Compatriot Shiv Kapur had a brilliant 2017, having won three times on the Asian Tour. Winning his National Open will always be his ambition, although, he will be happy with overall improvements in his game even without victories in 2018.
Poom Saksansin of Thailand got through a 19-hour flight from New Zealand to India and while he is physically fatigued, his mind remains fresh and rejuvenated. The young hotshot will be hoping that his relatively shorter driving distance will play to his advantage at the challenging Gary Player layout.
Other notable players in the field include Englishmen Chris Wood and Andrew Johnston, Thomas Bjorn of Denmark as well as Julian Suri of the United States.
Manu Bhaker wins 2nd gold at ISSF shooting World Cup
Guadalajara (Mexico), March 6: Pistol shooter Manu Bhaker contributed two gold medals for India in the ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Manu, 16, won the 10m air pistol gold medal and partnered Om Prakash Mitharval for the 10m air pistol mixed team gold on Monday.
In the individual event, the Indian debutant shot a total of 237.5 to prevail over home favourite Alejandra Zavala Vazquez, who finished second with a total of 237.1.
Frenchwoman Celine Goberville finished third with a score of 217.0.
Manu’s teammate Yashaswini Singh Deswal signed the best World Cup placement of her career, scoring 196.1 points and finishing fourth in her first final appearance.
In the mixed team event, Haryana girl Manu and Mitharval totaled 476.1 in the final. It was India’s third gold medal here.A
In total, India has seven medals and is now on top of the medal tally in this World Cup.
Germany’s Sandra and Christian Reitz fired 475.2 to take the silver medal, while France’s Celine and Florian Fouquet got 415.1 to finish third.
India also bagged a bronze in the 10m air rifle mixed team event, with Mehuli Ghosh and Deepak Kumar finishing with a total of 435.1.
Chinese pair of Xu Hong and Chen Keduo set up a world record score of 502 to clinch the yellow metal.
Romania’s Coman Laura-Georgeta and Moldoveanu Alin George settled for the bronze medal with a total score of 498.4.
India’s Ravi Kumar and Apruvi Chendela got 348.9 to finish fourth.
Asian Stars Sharma, Kiradech Shine At WGC-Mexico Championship
MEXICO CITY, March 5: Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat and young Indian talent Shubhankar Sharma earned plaudits for their battling display at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship which was won by American Phil Mickelson on Sunday.
Kiradech, who secured his third Asian Tour title in Australia last month, continued his fine form by claiming his career’s best result in a WGC tournament when he finished tied fifth after closing with a commendable six-under-par 65 at the Club de Golf Chapultepec.
His four-day total of 13-under-par 271 was three shots shy of joining the play-off with Justin Thomas and Mickelson, who won on the first extra hole.
Sharma, the youngest player in the elite field, earned a new legion of fans after holding the second and third round lead. Despite slipping to a share of ninth place following a 74 on the final day, Sharma still held his head high after finishing on 274.
Big-hitting Kiradech, Asia’s number one in 2013, matched the best result by a Thai player in a World Golf Championship event set previously by veteran Thongchai Jaidee at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in 2010.
“I was very proud with the way I'm playing and finish top-five in the World Golf Championships is always the best. On Saturday, I didn’t hole a putt, it just kicked me out of position. I played great golf today but still a little bit behind, a little bit too far,” said the 28-year-old Kiradech.
Starting the day six shots off the pace, Kiradech made his charge with six birdies in his opening 14 holes before dropping a lone bogey of the day on 16. He then birdied the 18th hole from 10 feet for his high finish, which moved him to a career-high 36th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
“I am really proud with the result. Top-five, it is a goal. But if you look back, I'm still not playing my best golf, my ‘A’ game, which on Saturday is supposed to be moving day but I just stepped back and didn’t move at all. Obviously, I am really happy with the result,” added Kiradech.
The 21-year-old Sharma, who has won twice on the Asian Tour and the European Tour since last December, stood tall after capping a memorable WGC-debut, where he had led the star-studded field by two shots after day two and three.
“A little bit disappointed, I was leading and I think I couldn't finish it off. But that's what the game is about. And what I learned, especially playing with Phil, I'll cherish it forever,” said Sharma, whose solid showing in Mexico pushed him from 75th to 66th position on the OWGR.
Sharma believes he will learn greatly from the experience of playing alongside Mickelson. “If you would have asked me four months ago that I would be playing with Phil at a WGC event on the last day, I would have just laughed,” said Sharma, who also leads the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings.
“Just playing with him has been fantastic. He's obviously a great man, showed me a few great shots. He's not afraid to go out there and get it out there and hit it at the pin, and he took some crazy clubs off the tee but that's what Phil is all about. I'll never forget it. Especially on 16 where he made birdie, it was the loudest roar I ever heard in my life. It was fantastic,” Sharma added.
At the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open, three-time Asian Tour champion Terry Pilkadaris of Australia rolled back the years by capping a solid runner-up finish and earned a prize purse of US$85,489. The result moved him to seventh place on the Habitat for Humanity Standings.
American duo Paul Peterson and Berry Henson, who both finished tied-11th in New Zealand, remained in third and fourth position respectively on the Habitat for Humanity Standings. Sharma continues to lead on US$500,000 while Kiradech trails in second place with US$251,173.
Asian Tour rookie Kurt Kitayama of the United States continued his fine form since coming through the Qualifying School in January where he finished tied-third. He closed with a 65 to finish in a share of fourth place in his second start on Tour in New Zealand.
The 25-year-old Kitayama, who won his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) title two weeks after securing his Asian Tour card, jumped from 84th to 21st on the Habitat for Humanity Standings. The top-five result also earned him a coveted spot in the Hero Indian Open this week.
“I’ve been playing really well. I’m pleased my result in New Zealand as it has given me a spot in India this week. I’m looking forward to playing well again. I’m enjoying my time in Asia. I get to travel the world a little bit and it’s a whole new experience for me,” said Kitayama.
The Asian Tour travels to the US$1.75 million Hero Indian Open this week. The prestigious event will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour and will be played at the DLF Golf and Country Club.
Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, dies at 88
LONDON, March 4: Record-breaking British athlete Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, has died aged 88, his family announced on Sunday.
“Sir Roger Bannister, died peacefully in Oxford on 3rd March 2018, aged 88, surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them,” his family said.
“He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends,” they added, in a statement published by the Press Association news agency.
Bannister gained global sporting glory on May 6, 1954, when he ran a mile (1.6 kilometres) three minutes 59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road track in Oxford.
Half a century later, the Royal Mint celebrated Bannister’s record by issuing a 50 pence coin showing an athlete’s running legs against a stopwatch.
But despite being famed for breaking the four-minute barrier, Bannister said he felt a greater sense of achievement winning gold at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, beating his great rival Australian John Landy in a race later dubbed the “Miracle Mile.” .
“I think that racing in the Olympics and Commonwealths is more important than breaking records,” Bannister said in 2014.
“Vancouver was the pinnacle of my athletics career. It is very difficult to break records during Olympic competition, but winning races was better than holding world records.”
The current one-mile record has since 1999 been held by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj with a time of 3:43.13 secs.
But Bannister’s achievement has continued to inspire athletics enthusiasts, with the shoes he wore to break the four-minute barrier selling for a record.
The black-leather pair of shoes sold for £266,500 in September 2015 -- about $409,000 at the exchange rate at the time.
By then Bannister was having trouble walking, let alone running, after revealing he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
The condition progressively damages part of the brain over time and is one Bannister was familiar with, even before he was first diagnosed a few years ago, from his lengthy career as neurologist.
“I am being well looked after and I don’t intend to let it interfere -- as much as I can,” he told the BBC in 2014.
“Just consider the alternatives -- that is the way I look at it,” he added. “Intellectually I am not (degenerating) and what is walking anyway!”