Aaron Rai (Getty Imagees-European Tour) and Shubhankar Sharma (File)
Oct 5: Shubhankar Sharma rounded off the week with a fine four-under 67 that saw him finish T-26 at the 2020 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. As Sharma admitted, it was especially good after a rough Saturday in North Berwick, Scotland,.
The T-26 was also Sharma’s best in the nine starts since the European Tour re-started after the Tour was halted due to the pandemic Covid19. His previous best finish was T-44 at Portugal Masters.
Aaron Rai, of England, who has Indo-Kenyan origins, notched the biggest win of his career, as he beat World No. 14 Tommy Fleetwood in the first play-off hole. It was his first Rolex Series and also carries him into World’s Top-100.
Sharma, who had 70-67-76 on first three days, started on the tenth and birdied 12th, 13th, 17th and 18th and turned in with a fine 4-under first nine. A bogey on first was his sloe blemish and he also birdied 7th for a 67.
Kalle Samooja (65-70-74-68) was T-9, Li Haotong (68-70-74-66) and Wang Jeunghun Wang Jeunghun (73-68-70-67) were T14 and Lee Min Woo (66-74-72-69) was T-30. Former Asian Tour No. 1, Gavin Green (70-71-67-75) finished T-42nd, Wu Ashun (70-70-77-67) was T-48, Masahiro Kawamura (69-69-77-71) was T-56 and Scott Hend (71-70-77-69) was T-59th.
The 2018 Asia Tour No. 1, Sharma said, “I played very good today and was pleased with it especially after yesterday. I really want to come out and play well. I am quite happy about the week and I played well even on Saturday till the last five holes. Till then I was par for the first 12 holes before we hit the bad patch of weather.
“On Saturday it was very difficult, My gloves were wet and it was difficult to even hold the clubs but I would say it was a different kind of experience. So a good learning for the future.”
“As for playing a lot, I am feeling very fresh and happy that I am getting to play so many events. Sitting in India not being able to play was not easy. I still have some more events and I am looking forward to them after this week.”
As for the bubble and being part of it, for the first few weeks it seemed very different, but now it seems normal. I have my friend, Ainesh as my caddie and we spend the time together on and off the course. So, no stress on that account. I am looking forward to some of the other events now.”
Rai, whose first and only previous win was at the Hong Kong Open, carded 7-under 64 to set the target at 11-under par but Fleetwood holed a 20-foot putt on the last for a closing birdie to take it to extra holes at The Renaissance Club.
It was advantage Fleetwood off the tee as Rai found a bunker but the 25-year-old rescued his par and when Fleetwood three putted from just off the green, Rai had his second European Tour title.
Last week Rai finished second at last week at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. The win moves him into the top five on the Race to Dubai Rankings.
Robert Rock missed out on a place in the play-off by one shot after a bogey on the last in a round of 70, with Australian Lucas Herbert and home favourite Marc Warren at nine under after rounds of 65 and 66.
Rai said, “It’s incredible. I played a lot in Scotland growing up, dreamed of playing in a European Tour event in Scotland. To be able to play in it was incredible a couple of years ago and to be able to go still further is an incredible feeling.
“I didn’t really see many leader boards all the way around. I knew we had to play well and knew we had to cope pushing forwards but luckily I had a good couple of breaks and also played very well, so I’m very pleased.
“It’s a dream come true. If I’m honest, to win any event on the European Tour is amazing. You have to play some world-class golf, but for it to be a Rolex Series with the class of field that was this week is deeply satisfying, and yeah, incredibly pleased.