Matt Wallace claims playoff for Indian Open golf title, Shubhankar Sharma tied 7th
Shubhankar Sharma slipped on the final day while Matt Wallace, overnight joint leader with Shubankhar, won on the extra hole against Andrew Johnston to claim the Hero Indian Open European Tour joint-sanctioned event.other sports Updated: Mar 11, 2018 19:24 IST
Matt Wallace missed cut at the US Open last year, but won the Hero Indian Open at the DLF Golf and Country Club, a course he reckons is many times tougher than Erin Hills in Wisconsin, where the season’s second Major was held. That it came in a playoff (against Andrew Johnston) on Sunday made it harder and sweeter as well.
Though a winner on the European Tour, the Englishman was in search of the “next level” and a chat with Shubhankar Sharma helped. “I’ve done it at a lower level (Wallace won six times in a season on the subsidiary Alps Tour) but what Shubhankar has achieved in the past few months is inspirational,” he said.
After Sunday and the lessons learnt this week, Wallace would have a thing or two to share as well and hope the triumph is the “start of a few big things” he had dreamt of at the start of the season.
As for Shubhankar, the final day’s round of three-over par 75 and the slip from joint lead to T7 summed up what he’d said earlier. “The beauty of golf is you can never perfect it.”
Wallace shared the lead after Saturday but was under no illusion, not after Shubhankar finished the penultimate round with a birdie. “I told Dave (caddy) that we were definitely not the favourite. So I woke up as if this was the first round and I had to be on top so that I could give an interview.”
The ploy seemed to work as at one point he even worked up a three-shot lead. But then this is a course that, though punishing, rewards those playing the best golf. In this case, it was Johnston, who carded the day’s best score of 66.
Johnston’s surge and Wallace’s bogey on the 16th livened up proceedings towards the end. It was the champion’s lone blemish but scared him no end. It helped to have a familiar face like Stephen Gallacher in the leader group. “The tee shot was a nervous one but Stephen encouraged me to go on. Coming from a veteran, it spurred me on,” said Wallace.
In the playoff, Wallace immediately swung it his way with a monstrous drive down the 18th. After a brilliant second shot and two putts, the title was his.
As Wallace said, he had learnt his lesson. At the beginning of the year, he and his team had set some goals but realised it only put him under pressure. So he was back to playing golf for the joy it brought. Now that it has worked, Sunday would be played like Thursday in the hope that the interviews are frequent.
Final top scores
277: Matt Wallace (69, 70, 70, 68); Andrew Johnston (72, 66, 73, 66)
280: Sihwan Kim (70, 70, 72, 68)
281: Pablo Larrazabal (67, 71, 74, 69); Matthias Schwab (71, 72, 68, 70)
283: Emiliano Grillo (65, 68, 78, 72)
284: Stephen Gallacher (72, 71, 67, 74); Shubhankar Sharma (73, 64, 72, 75)