Golconda Masters 2016: Harendra gears up for title defence; Shubhankar aims to keep the momentum

Harendra Gupta Golconda Masters defending championHyderabad: Harendra Gupta of Chandigarh is looking to make a fresh start to his 2016 PGTI season with a spirited title defence at the second edition of the Golconda Masters.

Gupta, a winner of eight titles, has faced turbulent times in the last few months since withdrawing from a PGTI event in early October 2015 due to a neck injury. The 31-year-old has since skipped two tournaments, missed the cut on four occasions and not posted a single top-20.

In fact, the four-time winner on the PGTI is yet to get on the board in the current season. He has missed the cut in both the events staged in the season so far.

But all that could change this week, as the Chandigarh resident who originally hails from the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, tees it up at one of his favoured venues, the Hyderabad Golf Club (HGC).

“I’m happy to be back at the HGC. I had a fantastic week last year. I’m eager to repeat that performance. I’ve had a tough time due to my neck injury since the end of last year. I’ve had to miss some events and endured pain while playing in others. But now my recovery is almost complete and I’m raring to step on the course,” said Harendra, who defeated Shamim Khan of Delhi in a fascinating playoff, after the two had ended regulation play with matching totals of 15-under, at the inaugural edition of the Golconda Masters.

He added, “I’ll be using a new set of clubs this week. I’ve been striking it well with the new clubs. I was three-under through the nine holes of practice today. That’s a good sign. However, my putting hasn’t been up to the mark of late and that needs to be addressed.

“The placement of tee shots will be the key at this course since the fairways are narrow with the trees coming into play. I find the seventh and the 13th particularly challenging. While the seventh has an island green, the slope on the 13th green, makes the first two shots absolutely critical there.”

Giving the defending champ a run for his money will be teenager and Asian Tour rookie Shubhankar Sharma of the DLF Golf & Country Club, Gurgaon, who won last week’s PGTI event in Bengaluru with a record-equaling tournament total of 24-under to bag his second title.

Shubhankar said, “I was pretty happy with what I achieved last week. All aspects of my game are quite sharp at the moment. I feel I have the momentum at this stage and another good week in Hyderabad would really lift my confidence ahead of next month’s Indian Open.

He went on to add, “I really enjoyed playing at the HGC last year. There are some changes in the course this time and it seems more challenging than before. A few tees have been moved back. There will be a premium on finding the fairways and thus the tee shots will be crucial along with the approach shots.”