Shubhankar Sharma banks on happy memories to defend Joburg Open golf title

Sharma, who won the last Joburg Open in 2017, is in search of a third European Tour golf title.

By Rahul Venkat

The Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg, South Africa holds fond memories for Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma.

It was the scene of his first title on the European Tour in December 2017, where he defeated local hero Erik van Rooyen on the 18th hole. The win earned him a full-time card to the Tour and an invitation to the 2018 Open Championship.

“It feels all of it happened just yesterday, I still remember everything about it,” said Shubhankar Sharma. “This is where it all started for me and I’m really happy to be back here.”

Three years after that breakthrough victory, Shubhankar Sharma returns to Johannesburg hoping to win a third European Tour title in what will be South Africa’s first golf tournament since March.

Keep calm and carry on

Staying composed was the key to winning back then. Sharma did not card a single bogey in the final three rounds and had to wait till Monday to finish off the job as the final round on Sunday was suspended.

The familiarity with the nature of the greens will come handy for Sharma again as he is well-versed with negotiating tree-lined courses.

“I grew up playing on tree-lined courses back home in India, so the layout does suit me,” explained Shubhankar Sharma.

“The ball flies a long way here so I do have to make some calculations and adjustments to my yardages. Moreover, I have more practice of putting on bentgrass now compared to a few years ago.”

Incidentally, this is the first Joburg Open since Shubhankar Sharma won in 2017 as the city of Johannesburg hosted the South African Open in 2018 and 2019. The two are considered separate tournaments on the European Tour.

If he does take home the title again, Shubhankar Sharma could become the first golfer to defend the Joburg Open title since former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel did so in 2011.

“I love Johannesburg, I feel it is very open and green. I’m looking forward to the tournament starting on Thursday and hopefully, I draw on the good memories to take another win,” Sharma concluded.