CAPE TOWN, December 11– Shubhankar Sharma produced a brilliant, nerveless performance in the final round to win his first European Tour title at the weather-delayed Joburg Open on Monday.
The Indian entered the final round with a five-shot lead but had seen that cut to four when play was halted due to storms at 1.00pm local time on Sunday with his ball on the eighth green.
The 21 year old showed no ill effects from the overnight delay, birdieing the ninth and then parring his way home for a 69 that moved him to 23-under and gave him a three-shot victory over South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen.
A place at the Open Championship was on offer for the top three players in the field not already exempt and South African Shaun Norris joined Sharma and Van Rooyen in booking his place at Carnoustie Golf Links as he finished at 17-under alongside Finn Tapio Pulkkanen.
England’s Marcus Armitage was then at 13-under, two shots clear of countryman James Morrison and Dane Joachim B Hansen.
Sharma has five wins on the Professional Golf Tour of India and can now add a European Tour victory to his CV in just his tenth event, having achieved eight top tens on the Asian Tour including the co-sanctioned UBS Hong Kong Open two weeks ago.
Van Rooyen had made birdies on the third, fourth, fifth and seventh, and was left with a tap-in on the ninth overnight, which he made to get to 19-under.
That cut the lead to three but Sharma, who was two under for his round at the suspension, holed an eight-foot left-to-righter on the ninth to turn in 33 and re-establish his cushion.
Norris had also turned in 33 and he soon set about trying to claim that third Open place with birdies on the par five 12th and 14th.
Van Rooyen then also took advantage of the 12th to once again cut the lead to three shots but there would be no further movement from the leading duo.
Pulkkanen made the most of the 14th but Norris holed a long putt on the 17th before Pulkkanen made another gain on the 15th as the duo battled it out for the final Open Spot.
Norris then hit a beautiful approach into the last and holed a seven-footer to set the clubhouse target at 17-under after a 65 and lay down the gauntlet to Pulkkanen.
The 2017 Road to Oman winner put an approach to six feet on the 16th to make it three in a row but he would still need to pick up another shot, with Norris in pole position to go to Carnoustie on virtue of his higher World Ranking.
A par-par finish meant Pulkkanen missed out on a trip to the oldest Major Championship but a 68 guaranteed him a second top ten in just his sixth European Tour event.
– African News Agency (ANA)