New Delhi, Dec 8 (IANS) Shubhankar Sharma emerged as the 2018 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion following a dream season which saw him achieve many milestones and rewrite many Indian records.
The 22-year-old Chandigarh-based Sharma now becomes the fifth and youngest Indian to top the Asian Tour money list in a particular season. He joins the exclusive club of Indians who have achieved the feat in the past -- Jyoti Randhawa (2002), Arjun Atwal (2003), Jeev Milkha Singh (2006 and 2008) and Anirban Lahiri (2015).
Anirban Lahiri held the previous record of being the youngest Indian to be crowned Asia No. 1 when he bagged the honour in 2015.
It's been a meteoric rise for Shubhankar over the last two seasons. He played his first full season in Asia in 2016 when he finished 55th in the money list and retained his card for 2017.
Then his breakthrough win at the 2017 Joburg Open saw him finish an impressive seventh on the Asian Tour money list for 2017. Sharma carried his winning momentum over to the new season and clinched his second Asian Tour title at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia.
At the Maybank Championship, Sharma overcame a four-shot deficit by shooting a final round 10-under-62 to claim a stunning two-shot victory at the $3 million event. He earned a winner's cheque of $500,000, which gave him a significant head-start in the merit race.
A month later in March, Shubhankar posted a commendable tied seventh at the Hero Indian Open on his home soil that helped him climb to a career-high 64th in the world rankings. He carded a sizzling 64 during the Indian Open week to set a new course record at the DLF Golf & Country Club. The top-10 in India extended his advantage in the Order of Merit.
The merit race got intense following the outstanding performances by Korea's Sanghyun Park and South Africa's Justin Harding on Tour. However, Sharma inched closer to the coveted trophy after he finished tied sixth at the Honma Hong Kong Open in November.
With Park not playing and Harding missing the cut at the South African Open this week, Sharma took an unassailable lead on the merit list with just the season-ending Indonesian Masters left to play.
As it stands at the moment, Shubhankar has season's earnings of $755,994 while second-placed Park has earnings of $561,898 and third-placed Justin Harding has earnings of $479,816. Interestingly, India's Gaganjeet Bhullar is placed fourth at $422,935 and is in line to improve on his career-best fifth place finish on the money list.
Outside the Asian Tour, Sharma has a top-10 at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship to his name, he played all four Majors and all four WGC events this year and he also clinched the European Tour Rookie of the Year award after finishing a creditable 28th in the Race to Dubai standings.
Shubhankar said, "I'm really happy with what has happened to me. Obviously, the Asian Tour played a big role, as the Tour has given me the chance to compete and helped me develop my game to my current level.
"This year has been a huge learning curve for me. I've played in some of the biggest events I could ever imagine and learned a lot. I know I have the game to be among the best in the world and I just want to keep playing well and give my best shot."