Wednesday, 21 February 2018
Shubhankar Sharma  (Getty Images)
Shubhankar Sharma (Getty Images)

Shubhankar Sharma admits he is living the dream on the European Tour as he tees it up in just his 15th event at this week's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters as a two-time winner.

The Indian was making an impression with two top tens in his first nine events but it is fair to say that his first victory at just the tenth time of asking at the Joburg Open would have been a surprise to some.

Nobody was in the dark when he carded a stunning closing 62 to win the Maybank Championship two months later and with a full set of playing privileges safely in his pocket, the 21 year old is excited by what the future holds.

A trip to Doha Golf Club this week is one of many firsts Sharma will encounter in the near-future, and he is enjoying every minute of the ride.

"Getting my first win in South Africa was a dream come true for me and then obviously the win at the Maybank Championship was special because I really didn't expect to win – I just had a crazy final round and got it done," he said.

"I'm really happy at the moment and I'm just trying to enjoy it as much as possible. It was just a process which has worked well for me. I had been working on my game for a long time and I put in a lot of work with my coach back home in Chandigarh.

"I always believed I could win on the European Tour and Joburg was fantastic, I just played really well all four days and even pushed it into a Monday finish. I was really calm throughout and it was fantastic.

"All the courses which I will play this year are new to me, apart from India of course and maybe Malaysia too because I played there last year. But all of the courses are new and just fantastic, it just adds to my experience.

"I'm just meeting new people, going to new places, trying to make many friends on Tour and I'm pretty young so I like to have as much fun as possible.

I always believed I could win on the European Tour - Shubhankar Sharma

"It's great, I couldn't have asked for a better experience this year, to be playing for at least three years on the European Tour now. It's a dream come true."

For Paul Lawrie, this week is a 19th trip to Qatar as he returns to the place that he believes set the stage for his greatest triumph.

A victory here in 1999 was followed later in the year by his dramatic triumph at the Open Championship, while his victory in 2012 helped him make his second Ryder Cup appearance some 13 years after his first.

At 49, Lawrie admits it can be difficult to compete with some of the younger players on Tour but on a windy layout that perfectly compliments his links style, he is well capable of another flourish before dipping his toe into the Staysure Tour next season.

"It's always nice to come back to a place where you've done well before," he said. "I've been lucky enough to win here twice so whenever you drive up you get nice feelings because you think back to the times that you've played well and the times that you've won.

"I've had some nice weeks here. It blows quite a bit round here and I've always been pretty comfortable at knocking the ball down and taking a bit of speed off my swing. My swing is a little slower than some guys so knock-down shots and punch shots, I cope with those quite well.

"In 1999, it started off here. I had a long lay-off in the winter with a knee injury and didn't play an awful lot of golf. This was my second event of the year, I missed the cut the week before, got here early and did a lot of work over the weekend.

"I absolutely love it here. It's one of my favourite golf courses to play all year.

"I'm going to try and play full-time this year, my foot will dictate how many events I play. When I do play I still practise hard, I still try to compete it's just, at 49, there are young boys out here that are hitting it 40, 50 yards past me and it's hard to compete when you get to a certain age.

"Come January when I turn 50 I'm going to have a nice schedule of playing a little bit on this Tour and a bit on the Seniors Tour, I'm looking forward to that."

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