Sharma looks at Hero Dubai Desert Classic to build on last week’s fine finish

Shubhankar Sharma (IND) during the practice round ahead of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic 2023, held at Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Picture Pedro Salado / Golffile.ie

Dubai, Jan 24: Shubhankar Sharma has been here in Dubai so many times, that he is quite familiar with it and is now hoping to spend a lot more time practicing and taking advantage of the great golfing facilities here. He came to Dubai a few days ahead of last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships to practice and it paid off with a tied seventh place finish.

Now he hopes to reap similar benefits at the $ Nine million Hero Desert Classic at the iconic Emirates Golf Club’s Majlis Course.

A solid follow up to the good start he had last week could yield bigger rewards this year. He is already in the Open, which interestingly falls in the week as his 27th birthday. Last year he was 29th in the DP World Race to Dubai rankings and now his goal is to snare one of the 10 PGA Tour cards  that will be offer at the end of this year. The Top-10 players not otherwise exempt into the PGA Tour, will get a chance to move to the world’s most lucrative Tour in 2024.

“Yes, it is a goal and I think that is very exciting, but it is too early to start thinking about that. As I said before Abu Dhabi, process and consistency is the goal for the season. If I do that, the rest will fall in place.”

Last week was his sixth start in Abu Dhabi and he has done well last two times, but he has been not able to recreate that form at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. He wants to change that and considering the kind of form he showed last week, that may well happen this week. He is making his sixth start at Dubai, too, where his best has been T-22 in 2021 and he was also T-29 in 2019.

Sure, last year he was tied second in Abu Dhabi  as compared to tied seventh this time, but the fact he played four rounds in ‘red’ (under par) this year pleased him a lot.

Sharma said, “The positive takeaway from Abu Dhabi was consistency and four good scores. The putting was a lot better.  The first couple of days I putted great and even on the final day, I made a lot of putts.  So all in all, I would give it an ‘A’ and whenever I am over a ‘B’ in putting I happy.

“As for areas to work on, I would like some better results with the iron shots, especially the left-to-right shots where I struggled. The wedge play could have been a lot better. Normally I hit my wedges quite well. But, as I see it, even getting to know these is a positive. Now I know what to work on for Dubai.”

He finds himself ‘at home’ in Dubai. The food, the fans and the diaspora and this even the title sponsor, Hero, is Indian.

“It is very comfortable in the Middle East, particularly Dubai. I know a lot of people and there is a sense of comfort,” he says.

As the third leg of the Middle East rolls into Dubai, which was the first port of calling for the European Tour almost four decades, for the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is hoping to become only the second player to win the event three times after Ernie Els.

The Desert Classic, which was elevated to the Rolex Series status for the first time in 2022  is once of the five premium events on the Race to Dubai, with stops at the Genesis Scottish Open, BMW PGA Championship and DP World Tour Championship to follow.

Els won in 1994, 2002 and 2005 while McIlroy, while still being a teenager, won for the first time in 2009. He won again a second time in 2015. McIlroy will be making his 13th start at the event. Since his first win in 2009, he has never finished outside Top-10 in the Desert Classic.

The field this week includes the in-form Frenchman Victor Perez, who won last week in Abu Dhabi, the 2019 Open winner Shane Lowry, the 2018 Open winner, Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood and the experienced Padraig Harrington, who added the Senior US Open to the three Majors he won earlier in his career.

The Hero Dubai Desert Classic was first played in 1989 and has been hosted at Emirates Golf Club on all but two occasions ­- Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club staged the event in 1999 and 2000.

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