golf 5 days ago

Red-hot Sharma has eye on Masters spot at Oman Open

The Associated Press

MUSCAT, Oman (AP) — Shubhankar Sharma, the hottest player on the European Tour with two wins in six starts this season, embarks on a crucial stretch of his schedule this week at the inaugural Oman Open aiming for a spot in the Masters.

The 21-year-old Indian, who won the Joburg Open late last year and then the Maybank Championship a week ago, leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai and is one of the star attractions this week at Muscat's Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf course.

Ranked 521st at the start of the season after failing to secure his full card last year, Sharma has risen to No. 71 and has his eyes on the top-50 mark which would get him to Augusta National.

"Obviously, I was not expecting to be on top of the Race to Dubai," Sharma said. "I went to the Q School last year and missed out, so I was just trying to make the most of whatever number of starts I could get on the European Tour and earn enough money to secure my card for next year.

"But what has happened in the last couple of months has been a life-changing experience," added Sharma, who turned professional at the age of 16.

Sharma said he was happy with the state of his game and just trying to keep his own expectation under control.

"I am trying hard not to change my thinking. I am trying to play each event and each round as it comes," Sharma said.

"I am afraid of only one thing - my own expectations. I tend to push myself too hard. I do not feel any pressure from others, or the media who are writing and saying such nice things about me.

Oman becomes the 44th nation to host a European Tour event this week. The golf course hosted a Challenge Tour event for the past five year, which has been upgraded to a $1.75 million event on the main Tour.

Also in the field this week are: Alex Levy of France, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn and Andrew 'Beef' Johnston of England.

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