Shubhankar Sharma sets sights on Dubai Desert Classic glory

He is aware that it will require a special effort to upstage some of the world's best golfers over four intense days of golf at the revamped Majlis Course


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Shubhankar Sharma at the Dubai Desert Classic last year. — Supplied photo
Shubhankar Sharma at the Dubai Desert Classic last year. — Supplied photo

Published: Mon 15 Jan 2024, 9:08 PM

He has yet to win the Hero Dubai Desert Classic in six previous attempts but that does not stop Shubhankar Sharma from returning each January to compete in the DP World’s Tour’s blue riband event at the Emirates Golf Club.

Sharma, who had a seminal year in 2018 when he won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award alongside the Asian Tour’s prestigious Order of Merit, is back in Dubai to make a renewed big to wrap his skilful hands around the iconic Dallah Trophy come Sunday.

“The Hero Dubai Desert classic is one of the best events we play all year,” Sharma told Khaleej Times during an exclusive interview.

“The way the tournament is organised, its history on the calendar and the way the players are treated are what makes it special.

“It is an event I always look forward to playing in and always makes for an exciting week.”

However, he is aware that it will require a special effort to upstage some of the world’s best golfers over four intense days of golf at the revamped Majlis Course, the first and most famous golf venue in the UAE and Middle East.

“I’m feeling really good about my game after a refreshing break at home,” said Sharma, who lives in Chandigarh, a scenic Indian city that sits at the foothills of the Himalayas and is the capital of Haryana and Punjab.

“I always look forward to starting my season off in Dubai and the Emirates Golf Club is one of my favourite venues of the year. It will be a good opening event for the season to get the feeling back for the year ahead.

“Apart from the beautiful course, I really like the atmosphere of the event; it attracts a great crowd and I get a lot of support, which makes it particularly special playing there.”

The Dubai Desert Classic is very much an environment-friendly event and Sharma, who is a big fan of the ecosystem that surrounds us, says that he hopes that more events around the world embrace sustainability.

As he keeps his focus on the narrow green ribbons and testing greens at the Majlis Course Sharma will also embrace the vibe that he will experience thanks to the many Indian friends that he has living in the Emirate.

“I have a lot of friends in Dubai and always love coming back here,” he said.

“The large Indian community makes it feel like home and it’s a great place for all professional golfers like me to practice especially in the winter months of December and January before the season starts. I love going to the Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa is always a sight for sore eyes.”

But it is players like World No. 2. Rory McIlroy, recent Dubai Invitational winner Tommy Fleetwood and Ryder Cup star Tyrrell Hatton that will be under his radar as he bids to put the experience gained from his regular visits to Dubai for practice sessions, to good use over the weekend.

“There are so many unique golf clubs here in Dubai, the Majlis course and the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates are among my favourite courses here,” he said. “My favourite place to practice is the Claude Harmon Academy at the Els Club, mainly because I have many friends there so I have fond memories of that facility”

Whatever tips Sharma has picked up at leading clubs in Dubai will be tested by how well he can adapt to the competitive playing environment of the Dubai Desert Classic, which is the first Rolex Series event of the 2024 DP World Tour calendar.

“I hope to be playing most of the events in the first half of the year, so I will try to get off to a good start this week,” he said. “After that, we’ll see how we can keep progressing. One of my main goals would be to finish in the Top 10 of the Race to Dubai rankings at the end of the year, and hopefully return to the city to round out 2024.”

Sharma appears to have his priorities in place and only time will tell how well this golfing talent from Chandigarh, a city that has produced some of India’s most famous sporting icons including cricketing greats Kapil Dev and Yuvraj Singh, golfer Jeev Milkha Singh and his legendary father, Milkha Singh, the erstwhile Indian track and field sprinter who is the only athlete from his country to win gold medals in 400 metres at the Asian and Commonwealth Games.

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