Golfer Anirban Lahiri aims at twin targets
After clinching his second title of the year with a victory at Sunday's Macau Open, the Indian golfer aims at achieving Asian Tour Order of Merit and Top 50 ranking
New Delhi: Call it superstition if you will or caution if you must, but Anirban Lahiri doesn't want to think or at least talk beyond his immediate two goals: make a charge for the Asian Tour Order of Merit and with it make a dash for the Top-50 in world golf rankings.
Anirban Lahiri during the Macau Open. Pic/AFP
Winning either or both will come with a lot of benefits, which he prefers to keep to himself, and understandably so.
Sunday's win at the Venetian Macau Open saw Lahiri rise from 90th at the start of the week to 69th and that puts him within striking distance of the Top-50.
A good result at CIMB Classic, the 7-million dollar event, jointly sanctioned with the PGA Tour, which counts towards the Asian Tour Order of Merit, could give him a chance to unseat the current leader, David Lipsky.
Topping the Asian Tour Order of Merit guarantees a start at the British Open. The OOM Topper also gets into Cadillac Championships, the first of the four WGC events. But Lahiri could make that even by making Top-50.
But in terms of bragging rights, winning the OOM will make Lahiri only the fourth Indian after Jyoti Randhawa (2002), Arjun Atwal (2003) and Jeev Milkha Singh (2006 and 2008) to do so.
As for world rankings, a move into the stratospheric zone of 'Top-50' at the year-end rankings, could fetch him starts at all the elite events, the four Majors and the four WGC events, which together have close to $75 million as prize money.
Post the CIMB Classic the caravan moves to Shanghai for the $ 8.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions event, one of the four WGC series. While that does not count towards the Asian OOM, it has lots of World Ranking Points that Lahiri is targeting. The WGC is full of World’s top players from PGA and European Tours.
Lahiri, who moved into Top-100 with a win at Indonesian Masters in April this year has stayed there since then with a best at No 64 a month later in May.
The Majors — Masters, US Open, British Open and the PGA Championships — and the four WGC events — Cadillac Championships, Cadillac Matchplay, Bridgestone Invitational and HSBC Champions — is the 'Super League' of golf, if you may call it so,
Jeev was once a part of this when his Ranking rose to as high as No 28 in the world in 2009.
"One of the goals I had at the start of the year was to win more than once on Asian Tour and make a bid for the Order of Merit," said Lahiri from Macau. "Each time you achieve a goal, you have to make a change and it is pleasant to do so. I was leading the Merit List for a while before David (Lipsky) won a big one in European Masters to open up a big lead. But this win in Macau gives me a chance to catch up with big events coming up."
In the week before the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, the only Asian Tour event in Europe, Lipsky was about $100,000 behind Lahiri. But the win, worth more than $ 500,000 saw him zoom ahead and open up a lead of just over $ 350,000. That lead after Macau is down to just over $ 164,000.
Lahiri also has at least three more Million-dollar events — Manila Masters, Kings Cup and Thailand Golf Championships — plus the season-ending Dubai Open, which could be even bigger to make a dash for both Top-50 and Asian OOM.
Playing alongside and learning from the seniors, Lahiri, a former Asian Games, team silver medallist, is also becoming aware of the need to create a legacy for coming generations. At 27, he is already looked up to by the likes of S Chikkarangappa and Khalin Joshi, two very young and talented upcoming pros on Indian Tour.
"They are very talented and the Indian Tour has many more coming up," says Lahiri but downplays his own influence. He laughs and says, "I look up to the likes of Jeev, Jyoti and Arjun and they have achieved so much."
"I have now grown as a player, maybe from 24 months back. My game is there so I know I can compete against the best players in the world. There are still some areas that I know I must get better. I'm working on it and it's obviously improving," said Lahiri.
Perfect upbringing and a great attitude, one can say. But that just about sums up Lahiri, who shifted to yoga to control his anger on a golf course and it has paid him rich dividends.