Sharma leads Asian Tour stars to CIMB Classic

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Indian star Shubhankar Sharma will lead the Asian Tour luminaries to the ninth edition of the US$7 million CIMB Classic which starts on Thursday.

Sharma, the current Habitat for Humanity Standings leader on the Asian Tour, will make his first appearance alongside debutants Sanghyun Park of Korea, Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe, Justin Harding of South Africa and the in-form John Catlin of the United States at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.

Gaganjeet Bhullar of India, a nine-time Asian Tour winner, will make his third appearance in Southeast Asia’s only PGA TOUR-sanctioned tournament. His countryman Rahil Gangjee, Korea’s Minchel Choi and American duo Sihwan Kim and Berry Henson will also feature in the event.

Other Asians in the elite field include 2013 Asian Tour number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who is the first Thai to earn a PGA TOUR card and Anirban Lahiri of India, who finished tied third in the showpiece in 2016.

Malaysia will be represented by Asian Tour winner Ben Leong, who replaced Gavin Green in the field as the second highest ranked Malaysian on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) and Kim Leun Kwang, winner of the CIMB National Championship.

Sharma is enjoying a fine run in 2018 highlighted by his second Asian Tour victory in Malaysia in February. He continued his remarkable rise at the World Golf Championships in Mexico where he led heading into the final round before finishing tied ninth in his first attempt.

He is also the youngest Indian to play in all four Major championships this year, following the footsteps of Jeev Milkha Singh in 2007 and Anirban Lahiri in 2015 and 2016. His fine performances this year did not go unnoticed as he was awarded with the prestigious Arjuna Award from the President of India last month.

“I’ve never played in the CIMB Classic before and it should be very exciting. I’ve watched it on television before and my second win obviously came in Malaysia, so I’m looking forward to returning and putting up another good show,” said Sharma.

The 22-year-old will also look to extend his lead on the Habitat for Humanity Standings as half of the money earned at the CIMB Classic will be counted on the Order of Merit.

“I had a bigger lead before but the players are playing better and everyone’s getting closer. I know I’ve got to play well and I have to finish strong in the last few events so I’m going to give it my best,” said the Indian.

Ranked 93rd on the Official World Golf Ranking, Harding will continue his remarkable season by playing in the CIMB Classic after winning two straight Asian Tour titles in July.

“I’ve never anticipated my season to be this good and my schedule looking forward to be that nice. It’s exciting and I’m looking forward to CIMB as I’m going to see a couple of my mates there,” said the 32-year-old South African.

The consistent Vincent also punched his ticket to the CIMB Classic thanks largely to three runner-up results and six top-10 finishes. This will be his second time playing in a PGA TOUR tournament following the RBC Heritage in 2015.

“I’m feeling good. There are a lot of good things about my game. I’m absolutely happy with my season so far because it has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’ve also locked up a chance to play in the CIMB Classic so I have to focus on what I’ve been doing,” said Vincent.

Catlin will also make his debut in the CIMB Classic after claiming his third Asian Tour victory this season. The American won the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in Chinese Taipei on Sunday.

“If you told me I was going to play in a PGA Tour event six months ago, I would be like, it’s not going to happen. But now that I’ve got in, it’s amazing and I’m so excited to play in this event,” said the 27-year-old Catlin.

The PGA TOUR-sanctioned CIMB Classic features a limited field of 78 players comprising of the top 60 available players from the 2017-18 FedExCup points list, eight sponsor exemptions and the top-10 available players from the Asian Tour.

Tickets for the CIMB Classic is also now on sale. For more details on ticketing prices and to purchase online, please visit www.cimbclassic.com

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