Chinese Taipei, September 25: India's rising star Shubhankar will resume his chase for the coveted Asian Tour Order of Merit crown when he tees off for the US$850,000 Mercuries Taiwan Masters on Thursday (September 27).
Shubhankar, who will be receiving the prestigious Arjuna Award from the President of India in New Delhi on Tuesday (September 25), is determined to put up a fine performance this week to extend his lead on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings.
The 22-year-old Sharma will spearhead the elite 123-man field from 23 countries at the fabled Taiwan Golf and Country Club, the traditional home of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters which is celebrating its centennial year in 2018 as the oldest club in the country.
South African Justin Harding, highest-ranked player in 97th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), will also feature in the storied event alongside Korea's Sanghyun Park and Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe, all placed inside the top-10 on the Habitat for Humanity Standings.
The Mercuries Taiwan Masters is the longest-running full-field event on the Asian Tour. Inaugurated in 1987, the event has been held annually on the region's premier Tour since 2004. Players will be vying to boost their Merit rankings as the top 10 and top four players (not otherwise exempt) on the Habitat for Humanity standings will qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic and US$10 million WGC-HSBC Champions staged in Malaysia and China respectively.
The Mercuries Taiwan Masters will be the penultimate event for players to try and boost their rankings on the Habitat for Humanity Standings before the cut-off date on October 7.
Speaking to the Asian Tour ahead of the tournament, Shubhankar said, "I am really excited to be coming back to play in Asia. This is my third time playing in the Mercuries Taiwan Masters. I am looking forward to seeing all my friends again and it will be nice to catch up with all of them this week.
"I've played the course before so I know what mistakes I should avoid. I'll make sure I come up with a good game plan and hopefully play well this week. The aim is also to build some good momentum before heading to the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.
"I'm looking forward to play in the CIMB Classic as well. It's one of the biggest events in Asia and I'm very happy to qualify for that. I have never played at the TPC KL before. I have been very lucky to get a few starts on the PGA Tour as well this year so I am very excited.
"The chase for the Asian Tour Order of Merit crown has been on my mind since the start of the season. I've been leading the Habitat for Humanity Standings since winning the Maybank Championship in February. I'm lucky to still be in the lead even though I haven't played much in Asia.
"I will try my best to play well these two weeks and hopefully extend my lead at the top of the money list. It's not going to be easy but I'm in the best position that anyone can be in. It will be a great honour if I can join the list of Indian players who have won the prestigious Asian Tour Order of Merit crown," said a content Shubhankar.
Meanwhile talking about the Arjuna award, Shubhankar stated, "I am really happy to receive the Arjuna award today as well. It's a great honour. Many great golfers in India, like Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar, have won the award so to be able to join that illustrious list really mean a lot to me. My whole family will be there at the ceremony with me today so I am really excited."
Meanwhile, Harding, the highest-ranked golfer in the field, told the Asian Tour, "This is my first time in Chinese Taipei. It's the first time for me just about everywhere at the moment but I'm looking forward to the week. It's good to be coming into the week with some good form, after finishing runner-up in Japan.
"It has obviously put me in a good position on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings as well, which is nice with the big events coming up. I know I can't always feel my way around. I need to put three good rounds together and give myself a chance come Sunday," signed of the South African player.
Source: Asian Tour