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Shubhankar gets ready for miaden World Golf C'ship

PTI
NEWS
65   //    28 Feb 2018, 17:56 IST

Mexico City, Feb 28 (PTI) He has been richer by a whopping USD 700,000 (Rs 4.6 crore) winning two titles since December but rising star Shubhankar Sharma has kept his feet firmly grounded as he gears up for his maiden USD 10 million World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, later this week.

The 21-year-old flew halfway round the world in economy class as he enters the showpiece event as the No. 1 ranked golfer on both the European Tours Race to Dubai and Asian Tours Habitat for Humanity standings.

However he is happy to fly under the radar as the games elite gathers at Golf Club de Chapultepec.

A year ago, Sharma was waking up in the middle of the night to watch the WGC-Mexico Championship, won by Dustin Johnson, but victories at the Jo'burg Open and Maybank Championship, both sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours, have propelled him into the limelight.

Its really exciting to be here. This is the biggest event I have ever played in. I am looking forward to it, said Sharma, who will play the opening two rounds with Malaysias Gavin Green and American Chan Kim.

The son of an Indian army colonel, Sharma has burst onto the scene in quite some style. He won in South Africa with a 23-under winning total which included a 61 in the second round in December and then followed up with a second title in Malaysia after a closing 62 gave him a 21-under winning total.

I could not have imagined this happening (three months ago). I wouldnt have imagined myself playing on the European Tour, let alone a WGC event. Thats how the game is. When you play good, anything is possible. You need those small breaks and I got those breaks in Johannesburg and Malaysia. That shows you anything is possible. You just have to keep working hard, said Sharma.

With full playing status in Europe and Asia, Sharma said he is learning to adapt to being in the company of the games marquee names and conceded he was star-struck when he teed up in Abu Dhabi and Dubai earlier this year.

I am getting used to it. Seeing Rory (McIlroy), Dustin (Johnson), all these guys in the Middle East, I was a bit star-struck. I have got to step it up and play my own game. Its great to be playing in these events with all these great players. Up to last year, I was watching these players on TV and now playing here this week is a dream come true.

Despite the new-found fame and heightened media interests, Sharma insisted he was still the same person. And while he has added a few more zeroes into his bank account, he flew into Mexico City from Doha, Qatar on economy class.

Personally, nothing has changed. I am the same person. I am probably getting a bit more attention, getting more interviews. I think its great as long as it raises more awareness on golf in India. I am still trying to be the same person, still trying to be the best that I can be, said Sharma.

I probably should fly business class Maybe the flight back to India, Ill try to fly business. I flew from Qatar to Dallas and then into Mexico. It was nice. Economy isnt that bad. You get an aisle seat and its perfect, he insisted.

Ranked 75th in the world, Sharma, who is now the highest ranked Indian in the world, knows a strong week in Mexico could open more doors into the big tournaments on the PGA TOUR.

The top-64 will qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play next month while the top-50 will get into the Masters Tournament in April and Mays THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

Theres a lot at stake but at the same time, I dont want to put pressure on myself. Ive worked really hard to get to this level and I just want to have fun. To be honest, I know that if I play my best, it is good enough for a win or a top five or top-10. Its about going out there and shooting some good numbers. Come Sunday, Ill be happy if have played to my potential. I know that if I can play my best, Ill be right up there

PTI
NEWS
Press Trust of India (PTI) is a news agency in India
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