India’s Shubhankar Sharma followed up his European Tour Rookie of the Year award for the season with a top-10 finish at the HONMA Hong Kong Open on Sunday, strengthening his chances of winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
At the Hong Kong Golf Club course, the 22-year-old Sharma shot a three-under par 67 on the final day to improve to tied sixth place at nine-under par 271.
England’s Aaron Rai, who is of Indian origin, won his first tournament on the European Tour after battling compatriot Matthew Fitzpatrick down the final stretch. The 23-year-old closed with a one-under par 69 to finish on 17-under par 263, one shot better than Fitzpatrick (64).
Sharma finished alongside 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia and consolidated his position on top of the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standing.
Only three players now have a chance to catch up the Indian — Korean Sanghyun Park, South African Justin Harding and American John Catlin — but they will have to win at least two of the three remaining events on the schedule.
After a round that contained four birdies and a bogey, Sharma said: “I’m definitely very happy with this top-10 finish. It got really tough out there today with the rain, and in the end I was just pleased to finish off well.
“I was trying my best to stay calm and I’m really happy with the way I played. I got off to a bad start, but the par on the last hole was very nice, so I’m very happy.”
Among the other Indians to make the cut, Arjun Atwal (71) was tied 28th at 277, while Shiv Kapur (71) one shot further behind. Ajeetesh Sandhu (72) was tied 57th at 279, and Khalin Joshi and Viraj Madappa were tied 63rd with rounds of 69.
Five-time European Tour winner Fitzpatrick had fired seven birdies in his first 16 holes to pile the pressure on Rai but his challenge faltered when he carded his first bogey of the day at the 17th to give his compatriot a two-shot cushion with one hole remaining.
And despite carding a bogey at the last, Rai secured a stunning wire-to-wire victory in just his 46th European Tour appearance.
“It’s incredible. It definitely hasn’t sunk in just yet. I’ll probably need a few days for that to happen,” said Rai.
“It’s incredible to win on any Tour, let alone The European Tour and let alone the Hong Kong Open. It’s an incredible course, incredible event, very well supported.
“Matt played incredibly all day. It was tough but again, I really just tried to play the course as much as possible, rather than Matt, or anyone else who was playing well today.”
Challenge Tour graduate Victor Perez and Australian Jason Scrivener were five shots further back in a tie for third place.