Shubhankar Sharma produced a brilliant display of golf at the weather-delayed Joburg Open to win his maiden victory on the European Tour.
Sharma wasn’t even sure he was going to play the event, but decided a week ago that he would travel to South Africa for the first time in his life. On Monday, he walked away as champion and booked his spot at the 147th Open at Carnoustie next year.
The 21-year-old started the final round with a five-shot lead at Randpark Golf Club, but play was halted at 1pm local time until Monday, with Sharma’s lead having been cut to four as his ball lay on the eighth green.
He parred the 8th, birdied the ninth to regain a four shot lead and then parred his way home for a 69 that moved him to 23 under and gave him a three-shot victory over South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen, who carded a 66.
Sharma has five wins on the Professional Golf Tour of India and can now add a European Tour victory to his CV in just his tenth event, having achieved eight top tens on the Asian Tour including the co-sanctioned UBS Hong Kong Open two weeks ago.
“It feels absolutely wonderful to have won this week,” he said. “I actually wasn’t going to come here about a week ago and I decided to come so I’m really happy that I came. This is my first time in South Africa and I don’t think I’m ever going forget my first time in South Africa.
“I hit the ball good and I putted really well but the key up-and-downs I made over the first three days, I think I only missed two up-and-downs over the whole week.
“Even today, the up-and-downs I made on the tenth, the 13th and the 15th were very crucial. Once in a while you just have to make a few par saves to get a round going and I did just that the whole week.”
Left to right: Erik Van Rooyen, Sharma Dhubhankar and Shaun Norris qualify for The Open in 2018
However, a victory wasn’t the only perk. There were three Open qualifying spots up for grabs at the Joburg Open for those in the field who were not already exempt. South African Shaun Norris shot a final-round 65 to join Sharma and Van Rooyen in booking his place at Carnoustie Golf Links, carding a better round than Finn Tapio Pulkannen, who he tied for third with at 17-under-par.
England’s Marcus Armitage was then at 15 under, two shots clear of countryman James Morrison and Dane Joachim B Hansen.