Shubhankar Sharma Aims to End India's Indian Open Drought

Shubhankar Sharma Aims to End India’s Indian Open Drought

Shubhankar Sharma, the 27-year-old Indian golfer, is poised to make a strong run at the upcoming Indian Open, a tournament he considers the “fifth major.” Sharma, who finished tied seventh in the 2018 edition, is hoping to end India’s 15-year drought without a homegrown winner.

Sharma’s confidence stems from his recent form, which includes a tied-second finish in Singapore. He believes the parallels between his current situation and his performance in 2018 provide him with a sense of hope and belief.

Over the past six years, Sharma has matured both as a golfer and as a person. His game has become more refined, his tee shots have become longer and sharper, and his training regimen has become more regimented. However, some things have remained constant, such as his love for the Gurugram course, which he considers his second home.

Sharma acknowledges that the Indian Open is a challenging course, with thick roughs and narrow fairways. He emphasizes the importance of hitting the fairway and executing precise approach shots. Despite the difficulty of the course, Sharma believes that local knowledge will give him an advantage.

The field for the Indian Open is strong, with the likes of Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri also in contention. However, Sharma is confident that he can be one of the Indians to challenge for the title.

“It is one of the strongest Indian fields ever assembled at the Indian Open,” Sharma said. “While we have not had an Indian winner for some time, I think this weekend, we will surely have a few in contention. I certainly want to be one of those.”

Manu Gandas Returns to Form, Eyes Strong Indian Open Performance

Manu Gandas Returns to Form, Eyes Strong Indian Open Performance

Manu Gandas, the 27-year-old golfer from Gurugram, faced a challenging first season on the DP World Tour (European Tour) in 2023. Despite qualifying by topping the PGTI Order of Merit, he made only five cuts in 25 appearances.

“The results didn’t go my way, but I’ve gained invaluable experience,” said Gandas, whose best finish was a tied-20th at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational in Northern Ireland. “I now understand the demands of competing with world-class golfers in challenging conditions.”

Gandas has shown signs of improvement in the 2024 PGTI season, winning the Players Championship in Kolkata and finishing 13th at the Vooty Masters. He is now eyeing a strong performance at the Hero Indian Open, a DP World Tour event on his home course.

This year’s Indian Open will feature a record prize purse of $2.25 million and will be the second of five events comprising the Asian Swing. The tournament will attract 144 players, including 2015 champion Anirban Lahiri, Indian veteran Shiv Kapur, and three-time DP World Tour winner Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium.

“I’ll try to apply my learnings,” said Gandas, who finished tied-32nd last year. “The DLF course can be intimidating, especially in windy conditions.”

Reflecting on his European experience, Gandas highlighted the colder, windier, and wetter conditions, which affect warm-up time and distances. He also noted the longer courses, which test the long game.

Gandas has been troubled by recurring niggles in his right wrist and left ankle. “I’ve been playing with pain for the past 2-3 years,” he said. “This season, I’m prioritizing rest and physical strengthening to improve my yardage.”

Despite the challenges, Gandas remains determined. “There were times of self-doubt, but as an athlete, you must persevere,” he said. “I had support from Shubhankar, but homesickness can be a factor. Technical and mental inputs from tour regulars were helpful, but speaking to my coach Anitya Chand was invaluable.”

Meanwhile, Indian Golf Union (IGU) President Brijinder Singh announced plans to hire a National Development Manager (NDM) and National High Performance Manager (NHPM). “We’re interviewing candidates and expect to appoint an NDM by early April,” he said. “The NHPM will be an established player with a strong commitment to golf.”

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