Indian talent Shubhankar Sharma believes that the experience of playing alongside American legend Phil Mickelson in the final round of the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship will help him greatly as he continues his rise up the golfing ranks.
“If you would have asked me four months ago that I would be playing with Phil at a WGC on the last day, I would have just laughed,” said Sharma, which finished T9 in his World Golf Championships debut after leading in rounds 2 and 3.
“Just playing with him has been fantastic. He’s obviously a great man, showed me a few great shots. He’s not afraid to go out there and get it out there and hit it at the pin, and he took some crazy clubs off the tee but that’s what Phil is all about. I’ll never forget it, especially on 16 where he made birdie … it was the loudest roar I ever heard in life,” added the 21-year-old.
After surprising the star-studded field by taking a two-shot lead at the halfway stage and maintaining it going into the final round at Club de Golf Chapultepec, Sharma signed off with a 74 to finish six shots behind Mickelson who triumphed over reigning FedExCup champion Justin Thomas in a playoff.
It was not to be a dream finish for the highly impressive Indian, who stayed in contention on an enthralling Sunday before his hopes unraveled with four bogeys over the closing six holes. While disappointed with his finish, Sharma looked at the positives as he proved he belonged amongst the world’s elite in Mexico.
“A little bit disappointed … I was leading and I think I couldn’t finish it off today. But that’s what the game is about. And what I learned, especially playing with Phil, I’ll cherish it forever,” said Sharma, who won the Maybank Championship in early February for his second joint Asian Tour / European Tour title.
Sharma’s top 10 showing in Mexico pushed him further up on the Official World Golf Ranking from 75th to 66th position. His rise will enhance his chances of qualifying for the next World Golf Championships event later this month, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, which is exclusive to the top-64 golfers. Sharma was ranked 521st just last November.
Mickelson had mistaken Sharma as a journalist when the young Indian approached him at the practice putting green on Saturday. The five-time Major winner will certainly remember the Indian now and took time to pay credit to Sharma.
“I saw how well he struck the golf ball. He hit a beautiful tee shot on 1, you can tell he can really play. I saw some of the putts, some of the highlights with the putter. I know he’s a very talented player and I believe he’s leading the Order of Merit on the European Tour, so I know what a great player Mr Sharma is. I probably shouldn’t say that, he’s 26 years younger than me!,” said the veteran star, who has five Majors to his name.