What the world saw and marvelled at this week at the WGC-Mexico Championship, I saw it coming several years ago. I have been a huge admirer of Shubhankar Sharma, and by finishing tied ninth, he has completely justified the faith that I, and the whole Indian golf community, has had on this remarkable 21-year-old.
First things first, there will be questions that he could not close the deal, especially after leading the tournament for the first three days. To all those who doubt him, let me remind them that he is just 21 and this was his WGC and PGA Tour debut. If someone had told me he’d finish inside the top-10 on Thursday, I would have taken it without batting an eyelid.
Sunday was just not his day. But one day would never define his career. The period of three days leading up to the Sunday, however, is a different matter. The way he stood up to the severe examination by a world-class field on a golf course that demanded excellence in every aspect of the game, bodes extremely well for his future. A single round of six or seven-under par can be dismissed as a fluke, but not three days of consistent brilliance.
The boy is blessed with an incredible mind — and that is something I have been shouting from the rooftops for some time now. He will be disappointed on missing out on a golden opportunity — after all, a top-three finish would have sealed a dream Masters invite for him — but just like he has done with every bad shot he has played in a round, he will learn from it, forget the negatives, and move on to bigger and better things.
The ticket to Augusta National may not have been punched yet, but the tournament opens up several doors for Shubhankar. On the back of this performance, and the fact that he is inching his way towards the elite top-50 in the world rankings, I have no doubts he will secure several invitations to play on the PGA Tour. I won’t be surprised if he is playing full time in America by this time next year.
You can view this finish as a success or a failure, but I can assure you one thing — it will not change Shubhankar as a person and as a golfer. If at all, it will only spur him to work harder on his game. He may not have banked the $1.7 million winner’s cheque, but the experience of being in such a situation is priceless. It will pay him over and over in the years to come.
The Hero Indian Open is up next for the young man. Rest assured, he will get a hero’s welcome back home this week.
— Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour