Gurgaon: For the second week running, Shubhankar Sharma was unable to cash in on his pole position to close out a title win. Seven days after missing out at the WGC Mexico event, the Iceman let slip his positional advantage, showing he was human after all, in the process also seeing the Hero Indian Open leave home shores after a hat-trick of title wins between Anirban Lahiri and Shiv Shankar Prasad Chawrasia.
Instead, it was England’s Matt Wallace (69-70-70-68) who walked away with the $1.75 million 54th edition of the Open, pipping countryman Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston (72-66-73-66) in a playoff after the two had finished tied at 11 under 277s after 72 holes of topsy-turvy action at the DLF Golf and Country Club here on Sunday.
Johnston made a gain on the second from six feet to get within one of the lead but he was not there for long as Wallace birdied the same hole from 25 feet to get to eight under.
Both birdied the fourth and when Wallace holed a 30-footer to get into double figures on the seventh, he was three ahead. Johnston fought back strongly on the back nine and when Wallace bogeyed the difficult par-3 18th, ‘Beef’ was in the battle.
It was the 27-year-old’s second European Tour title and he won it with a blistering drive on the first playoff hole, the par-5 18th and after seeing Johnston’s birdie putt shave the hole, needing two putts to seal the mini-match.
American Sihwan Kim finished at eight under, a shot clear of Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal and Austrian Matthias Schwab. It was redemption for Kim who on his last visit to India, had an indifferent Panasonic Open. This time, he was always in and around the mix and turned in his best card of four under 68 when it counted the most.
Argentinian Emiliano Grillo was five under and lone sixth. “I played great,” Wallace said. “Ever since being three over through eight at the start of the week I’ve played some of the best golf of my life and to do it in that style at the end there capped it off. Beef really had a great round today because I was playing fantastic and thought I might have been a few more clear.”
Sharma, 21, in a share of the overnight lead alongside Wallace, turned his highest round of the weekend on his home course with a three over par 75 to slide down the leaderboard, He though has the consolation of continuing to top the Race to Dubai European Tour order of merit as well as the Asian Tour money list.
Sharma (73-64-72-75), who came to the tournament with high expectations as the winner of two European Tour events in the last three months, slipped on the final day, struggling with his swing suddenly after three days of sweet ball-striking.
Sharma started well with two birdies on the first four holes. However, disaster struck when he found the water on the fifth and the bushes on the seventh that led to two double-bogeys. His challenge then faded away as he managed four birdies but also conceded a further three bogeys and a double-bogey.
“It was a disappointing day for me,” he said later.