Sharma Wins Maiden European Tour Title and Claims Place at The Open
INDIAN golfer Shubhankar Sharma withstood a stirring challenge from South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen to claim his first European Tour title in the weather-delayed Joburg Open.
The Indian entered the final round at Randpark Golf Club with a five-shot lead that had been cut to four when thunderstorms forced the players off the course on Sunday. That was immediately reduced to three when they returned and Van Rooyen holed a short birdie putt.
Sharma, 21, then birdied the ninth and parred his way in for a 69 that took him to 23 under par and ultimately gave him a three-shot victory over Van Rooyen, who finished with a 66. As an added bonus, Sharma, Van Rooyen and Shaun Norris, of South Africa also claimed spots in the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
The 21 year old showed no ill effects from the overnight delay, birdieing the ninth and then parring 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.
England's Marcus Armitage was fourth at 15 under, two shots clear of countryman James Morrison and Dane Joachim B Hansen.
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 asp finished in the top 10 in the recent Hong Kong Open.
"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 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."
Van Rooyen birdied the third, fourth, fifth and seventh, and was left with a tap-in on the ninth overnight, which he made to get to 19 under. That cut the lead to three but Sharma, who was two under for his round at the suspension, holed an eight-foot left-to-righter on the ninth to turn in 33 and re-establish his cushion. Norris also reached the turn in 33, and added further birdies at the 12th and 14th holes.
Van Rooyen then also took advantage of the 12th to cut the lead to three shots but that was as close as he got.
Pulkkanen made the most of the 14th but Norris holed a long putt on the 17th before Pulkkanen birdied the 15th as the duo battled it out for the final Open spot. Norris then hit a beautiful approach into the last and holed a seven-footer to set the clubhouse target at 17 under after a 65 and lay down the gauntlet to Pulkkanen.
The 2017 Road to Oman winner put an approach to six feet on the 16th to make it three in a row but he would still need to pick up another shot, with Norris in pole position to go to Carnoustie on virtue of his higher World Ranking.
A par-par finish meant Pulkkanen missed out on a trip to Carnoustie but a 68 guaranteed him a second top ten in just his sixth European Tour event. Armitage carded a 70 that was matched by Hansen, with Morrison carding a one over par 73.
On an unseasonably cold day, Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair combined to win the QBE Shootout at Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort after a butterball score of 64, which was good enough to give them a two-shot win over Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry.
“I was pretty cold out there,” O’Hair said. “Today was tough. The wind was really cold, it was a heavy wind, and it made for difficult conditions. But it warmed up for us.”
After three days of fun golf, Stricker and O’Hair will split the $820,000 purse for the unofficial win. They fell two behind on the front nine but reeled off three straight birdies before making the turn. Stricker and O’Hair were still one in front when O’Hair eagled the 17th hole, all but ending it. It was the second QBE Shootout title for each player, who had previously won the event with different partners.
Stricker, who hadn’t played much golf owing to his Presidents Cup captaincy, got to Naples a week early to prepare and rolled back the years. It was a family affair as Nicki Stricker caddied for her husband, while Jackie O’Hairwalked all 18 holes with Sean.
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