India’s Shubhankar Sharma became the first Indian to emerge as the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year on the European Tour despite a disappointing final round of 80 at the DP World Tour Championships on Sunday.
Sharma follows Jon Rahm (2017), Wang Jeunghun (2016), Byeong Hun An (2015) and Brooks Koepka (2014) who have been the four Rookies before him.
No Indian has won the Rookie of the Year award in European Tour, though three Indians – Arjun Atwal (1995), Shiv Kapur (2005) and C Muniyappa (2009) emerged as Rookie of the Year on the Asian Tour.
Interestingly, the 22-year-old Sharma is the third Asian in last four years to win this European Tour accolade, after Byeong Hun An (2015) and Wang Jeunghun (2016).
“It has been a great season and to come out with this (Rookie of the Year) award, about which I knew nothing till a few years ago, is indeed a positive,” Sharma said.
However, Sharma had a disappointing end to the European Tour season as he carded eight-over 80 in the final round of the DP World Tour Championships.
Sharma, starting the day at 10-under and in Tied-ninth place, carded 80 with just two birdies, seven bogeys and a triple bogey on 14th, to sign off Tied-41st.
Yet with his nearest rivals, Lucas Herbert (72 and T-49th) and Sam Horsfield (73 and Tie-41st) not coming any closer than they were at the start of the week, Sharma took the honours.
“I would have loved to finish better, but a series of small things like poor decisions, not-so-good hitting and putting and so on, including pace of play, affected my performance,” he said.
All that is part of the game, so I learnt a lot. In the end it was nice to come out Rookie of the Year award and a place at 2019 Open.
“I am now looking forward to the Asian Tour where I am leading the Order of Merit. For that I have to ensure a good next week in Hong Kong,” said Sharma, who is in line to emulate Jyoti Randhawa (2002), Atwal (2003), Jeev Milkha Singh (2006 and 2008) and Anirban Lahiri (2015) as the No. 1 golfers in Asia.
Another positive takeaway for Sharma was he finished 28th in the Race to Dubai standings to guarantee himself a place at The Open at Royal Portrush next year as the Top-30 get a spot.
While Sharma won the Rookie honours, the main Race to Dubai honours went to Europe’s biggest star of 2018 Francesco Molinari, who this year won his maiden Major at the Open, his first PGA Tour title, the BMW PGA International in Europe and five points in five matches in a dream Ryder Cup performance.
Sharma, who started off the season with T-10 at the Hong Kong Open exactly a year ago, has won two events the Joburg Open in December last year and the Maybank Championships in February, 2018.
Through the season, Sharma played 26 events, including all four Majors, but made the cut in only the Open Championships, which was in the same week as his 22nd birthday.
Sharma also figured in all four WGC Championships, none of which had a cut and his best result was T-9 in WGC-Mexico, where he led after 54 holes.