Shubhankar Sharma leads strong Indian contingent at China Open golf
Indian golf’s depth of talent will once again be on display as eight players, including the country’s latest sensation Shubhankar Sharma, tee off at the China Open in Beijing on Thursday.
Seven of the eight Indians in the field this week have won in the past and are capable of turning up with winning form. However, the indian contingent does not include last week’s winner, Rahil Gangjee, who decided to stay back in Japan to play another event this week.
Leading the brigade is Shubhankar, whose twin wins in Joburg and Malaysia plus the T-9 finish at the WGC-Mexico catapulted him into world focus.
However, Sharma, who leads the Asian Tour’s ‘Habitat for Humanity’ Rankings, has not been able to repeat those showing in the starts he gained in the US on the PGA Tour.
Sharma missed the cut at Houston Open, Masters and the Texas Open, but at 21 he is still finding his feet around. In between, Sharma, who is also second on the Race to Dubai rankings, has come to Asia for the Volvo China Open, which 12 years ago was won by Jeev Milkha Singh.
The Indian component of the field includes Shubhankar and Jeev besides which there are strong players like Shiv Kapur, winner of the recent Panasonic Swing, who also won three times in 2017.
Also to be seen in action are SSP Chawrasia, a two-time winner of Hero Indian Open in his four European Tour wins, eight-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar, the 8-time Asian Tour and 3-time European Tour winner, Arjun Atwal, Ajeetesh Sandhu, the winner in Taiwan and Khalin Joshi, the only one of the eight waiting for is break-through win.
Alexander Levy of France will begin his Volvo China Open title defence at the USD 3.178m event, tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, China Golf Association and the European Tour on Thursday.
The 27-year-old Levy last week won the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, and is in line to make the team for the Ryder Cup in his home country of France in September.
Levy won his debut European Tour title on Chinese soil in 2014 and his victory at the Topwin Golf and Country Club twelve months ago made him the first two-time champion in the history of the event.
This week, the challenge is set once again at the 7,261-yard, Ian Woosnam-designed course that boasts dramatic views of China’s magnificent Great Wall and which is the host venue for the third year in succession.
The Frenchmen has already won once and enjoyed three top-ten finishes this year, and he will be the focus of attention as he aims to continue his consistent run.
Levy will face stiff challenge from the likes of Thailand’s number one, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Sharma of India and Chinese star Haotong Li, who was the 2016 China Open champion.
Li, 22, underlined his star credentials when he held off the challenge from four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy to win the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic in January. That victory propelled him to a career-high 32nd place and break into the world’s top-50.
Other notable names include reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit Winner Gavin Green, young Thais Phachara Khongwatmai and Rattanon Wannasrichan as well as European Tour stars Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and Joost Luiten of the Netherlands.