Graeme McDowell and Shubhankar. Pic: Getty Images/ ET
KAEC, Jeddah, Feb 4: Shubhankar Sharma continued his European Tour journey as he tees off at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers once again.
The two-time European Tour winner, Sharma, has been having a modest season and has not finished inside Top-20 since the two weeks in Cyprus.
Sharma, the only Indian in the field this week, will tee off with Brandon Stone and Jhonottan Vegas for the first two days.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell is aiming to recapture the momentum he built up last season when he tees it up once again at the Saudi International.
The Major winner got his 2020 season off to the perfect start with victory at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, but admits he struggled to recapture that form when he returned to action after the enforced break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Northern Irishman will face a stern challenge in his bid to hold on to his title, with a field including World Number One, 2019 winner and reigning Masters Tournament champion Dustin Johnson as well as fellow Major winners Bryson DeChambeau, Shane Lowry, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
Also challenging McDowell for further desert success are the last two winners on the ‘Middle East Swing’ – his fellow Ryder Cup stars Tyrrell Hatton and Paul Casey, who both make their debut in King Abdullah Economic City.
World Number Seven Hatton became the joint most successful Rolex Series player when he sealed his fourth victory and his sixth overall on the European Tour at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to continue his impressive advance up the Official World Golf Ranking.
Meanwhile Paul Casey is seeking to continue his own upward trajectory after sealing his 15th European Tour title at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday.
McDowell: “First time here last year. Nice, windy track. Good golf course. Great facilities here. It fit my eye pretty well and it was really important to me at the time. Got me back in the top-50 in the world and got me into Augusta and opened a lot of doors for me.
“I felt like I was starting to get a little bit of a head of steam up and starting to create some nice momentum and move into the right direction and obviously that momentum didn’t get a chance to last very long unfortunately. I didn’t respond well when we came back in the summer.”