Shubhankar Sharma leads India’s largest contingent at CIMB Classic
Four Indians will tee-off at the CIMB Classic this week with Shubhankar Sharma leading the country’s biggest ever line-up in a PGA event. The youngest of the lot, 22-year-old Sharma, leads the expectations and the others in-form are Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri, who has been here before and was T-3 in 2015, and Rahil Gangjee, who did play on the Web.com Tour in the US, but it is in Asia that he is making his PGA Tour debut.
Three players have won the event since it came on to the PGA Tour. Ryan Moore won it in 2013 and 2014 and then Justin Thomas claimed it in 2015 and 2016, while Pat Perez was the champion last year. All three are in the field this week.
Other top contenders include Xander Schauffele, Paul Casey, Billy Horschel, Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker and Kevin Tway, who won the Safeway Open last week.
Sharma leads the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings as he gets ready for his debut at the USD 7 million event.
The Indian star has been in the lead since winning in Malaysia in February but he has Sanghyun Park of Korea, who has won twice on the Asian Tour, breathing down his neck.
With Park also in the elite field this week and a mere USD 54,278 separating the duo, Sharma knows he must put in a solid performance at the TPC Kuala Lumpur, a course where he has never played on before.
For Sharma, the event is hugely important in his quest to becoming Asian Tour’s number one golfer as half of the earnings won at the CIMB Classic will be counted on the Standings. They will be joined by the leading available 10 players on the Habitat for Humanity Standings which include Gaganjeet Bhullar, a nine-time Asian Tour winner, Justin Harding of South Africa and last week’s champion John Catlin of the United States.
“I’ve seen this event on television for so many years, and obviously Anirban (Lahiri) won the Malaysian Open here a few years ago so I’ve seen this golf course a lot on television and today was my first look at it. I’m really happy that I’m part of this event and looking forward to it,” said Sharma.
“I haven’t really thought about anything or set any goals. Winning the Order of Merit is something I want to achieve by December and playing well here goes a long way to achieve that. That will be number one goal for now. Obviously we all know golf is a game that you can’t really have your best every week.” Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the 2013 Asian Tour number one, will play in his first PGA Tour event after becoming the first Thai to earn a the Tour card. He will look to improve on his tied third place finish in the showpiece event in 2013.