Shubhankar Sharma, 21, holds a two-shot lead entering the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship. Can he hold off some of golf’s top stars for the win?
Shubhankar Sharma, just 21 years old, has been a pro for over four years now. However, he’s still a relative newcomer to the biggest tours. Even with two European Tour victories under his belt, that was never more evident than it was on Saturday at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
This is Sharma’s first time playing a PGA TOUR event, and mingling with some true superstars. When he saw Phil Mickelson warming up on the practice green, he found the nerve to walk up and introduce himself.
“Not right now, after the round,” Lefty said. He had mistaken Sharma and his caddie for media members. Tough hit to the ego, right? Not so much.
“Me and my caddie went up to [Mickelson]. He thought we were media and he said, ‘Not right now, after the round,’” Sharma laughed. “Then he just realized and said, ‘So sorry, I thought you were media.’ He said ‘hi.’ I said ‘hi.’ Then he made a few putts and he came back to me and said, ‘Have a good day.’ It was nice.”
There won’t be any case of mistaken identity on Sunday. Sharma and Mickelson will get to know each other as much as they’d like, playing in the final pairing together.
Sharma has watched the best growing up. Now he gets a chance to beat them.
Although Sharma will have to fend off several of the world’s best golfers to win, he certainly doesn’t appear shaken. That’s because he’s learned from those players, even from afar.
Sharma has said that, growing up, he would stay up through the night watching the majors. He cited Rory McIlroy’s win at the 2011 U.S. Open as one of his most inspiring moments. And of course, having Tiger Woods in action hasn’t hurt either.
While those moments helped shape Sharma’s growth as a golfer, little can compare to the major-quality field in action this week. That just makes Sharma’s performance thus far that much more impressive.
Going into moving day with the lead, Sharma started off hot, but he stumbled a bit down the stretch, closing with two bogeys in his final six holes. It was still good enough to maintain the lead, but with the likes of Mickelson (-6) and Tyrrell Hatton (-7) rocketing up the leaderboard, it would have been understandable if Sharma did a bit of scoreboard watching.
If Sharma was nervous at any point, he didn’t show it. He’s ranked 10th in the field in driving accuracy, and 11th in strokes gained putting. Although he’s hit just 36 of 54 greens in regulation, he’s also second in scrambling. If he keeps that kind of performance up on Sunday, he won’t give any ground back to his chasers. They’ll have to come get him.