Just two Indians from a 13-strong contingent came through the Asian Tour’s Qualifying School in Hua Hin on Sunday to earn full playing rights for 2023, Khalin Joshi and Kartik Sharma making the short list of 35 players from the over 300 that had entered the process.
While the experienced Joshi, an Asian Tour winner in the past finished in 26th place, young gun Sharma was 30th though both finished on nine-under par 346 after 90 gruelling holes at different courses around Thailand.
Bangalore-based Joshi (72-70-71-66-67) had a sterling year in 2018 when he won the Panasonic Open India title and went on to finish a career-best 17th on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit (money list). In the same year he was tied fifth at the Maybank Championship, then a co-sanctioned event between the European and Asian Tours.
Sharma had the same aggregate score as Joshi but took a lower placing with an off-colour final round at the Lake View Resort and Golf Club in Hua Hin on Sunday. His scores of 69, 69, 68, 66 and 74 however, were good enough to keep him in the top 35 who earned their Tour cards on the day from the 77 who had started the final round.
Eliminated after the first four rounds at Hua Hin were Gaurav Pratap Singh (70-69-71-74), 2022 PGTI Order of Merit runner-up Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (69-69-73-76) , Kshitij Naveed Kaul (67-74-74-70), Aman Raj (73-69-71-73), Varun Parikh (67-75-72-72), Angad Cheema (71-72-79-68), and Saptak Talwar (74-70-70-71).
Going out after the first two rounds were the experienced Om Prakash Chouhan, Tokyo Olympian Udayan Mane, Yashhas Chandra, and Himmat Rai.
Interestingly, Australian Jack Thompson topped the Final Stage by two shots from countryman John Lyras and China’s Bai Zhengkai after he took the last and final qualifying spot at the First Stage Qualifying Section C tournament at Blue Canyon Country Club in Phuket at the start of the month.
Thompson, a professional for just two years, closed with a five-under-par 66 for a five-round total of 22 under, the Asian Tour said.
Bai returned a 65 while Lyras, who started the day alongside Thompson at the top of the leaderboard, had a 68 on a tense final day. American Michael Maguire (65) and Ye Wocheng (69) from China shared fourth place, four shots behind the winner.
A total of 35 players out of 77 starters on Sunday secured right of passage onto the Asian Tour this year – which promises to be the most lucrative in its history.
Nine players, tied on eight under, went into a sudden-death play-off for the last two cards which eventually went to Thomas Power Horan from Australia and England’s Ben Jones, after they both birdied the first hole.
Missing out in the play-off where Chinese-Taipei’s Ho Yu-cheng, American Matthew Negri, Jakraphan Premsirigorn from Thailand, England’s Jack Harrison, Korean Jonghark Kim, Japan’s Ren Yonezawa, and Justin De Los Santos from the Philippines, who birdied his last hole to get into the play-off.
Top 10 for Sharma at Abu Dhabi
At the lucrative Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship meanwhile, India star Shubhankar Sharma overcame a mid-round blip to take a share of seventh place at the Yas Links course on Sunday.
Sharma, who was tied for second at the event last year, in fact held a share of the lead early on in his final round before a bogey on the eighth hole saw him fall out of the top, Two further dropped shots would negate the gains from an eagled second hole and a further four birdies.
All in all though it was a fine effort from the 26-year-old, who has two previous wins on the DP World (European) Tour. In all, Sharma (67-70-69-69) had 18 birdies and the eagle three to finish with a four-day aggregate of 13-under 275 that took him to a projected 234th place on the Official World Golf Rankings.
It was Sharma’s first start on the DP World Tour this season and his final placing was worth 214,496 euro, good enough for 20th place on the Order of Merit.
At the top, Victor Perez of France put in a dramatic late surge and then survived a final hole bogey to win his first Rolex Series title by one shot from Australia’s Min Woo Lee.
Perez holed a bunker shot on the penultimate hole to open a two-shot advantage and though he was to drop a shot on the 18th, it was enough to hold off Lee on a day that saw two holes in one and a course record of 10-under 62 being recorded at the Yas Links.
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