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Thursday, 05 March 2015
Read 991 Last modified on Thursday, 05 March 2015 06:45

Indian star Anirban Lahiri hopes his debut appearance at this week’s US$9.25 million WGC-Cadillac Championship will lead him a step closer towards his dream of becoming India’s first Major Champion.

The 27 year old Bangalore native won the Maybank Malaysian Open and the Hero Indian Open in the space of just three weeks last month to climb into second on The Race to Dubai, as well as to 34th in the Official World Golf Ranking, all of which has him in an ideal position to compete in all four Majors this season.

“It’s quite amazing so much has changed,” said Lahiri. “I didn’t expect to be in this situation that I am now. I’m happy it’s come and it’s a fantastic time. I’m at a point in my career where I hope to move westward and the wins have helped. I’m excited.”

His recent exploits – which have seen him claim four wins in the past 10 months – have also seen him draw media interest from around the world.

So an appearance at the Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida this week will offer a litmus test on Lahiri’s rapid rise onto the world stage, but the Indian is prepared to stick to his learning curve after a maiden WGC appearance at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last year saw the Qualifying School graduate finish tied for 28th.

“There’ll be a lot of firsts for me, and I’m really eager for all of that,” said Lahiri, who is a seven time Asian Tour winner “It’s exciting times ahead and I’ll approach them in a similar manner. I’m trying to get better every day and will continue to work hard at improving my skills.

“One of the main things is to gain the experience of playing in the Majors and WGCs, playing well in them and in different conditions. It’s all about learning as I go along and hopefully maybe I can get into the top ten and vie for the number one spot.

“I just need to keep playing well and keep playing more in the big events to build up my confidence and ability to compete against the top players.”

In his recent victories, Lahiri, who practices yoga and Vipassna meditation, has shown an uncanny ability to produce clutch putts or shots. When he claimed his first victory outside of India at the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters last April, he holed a 20-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole for a one-stroke victory.

In Malaysia last month, he rolled in a crucial 50-foot birdie putt on the penultimate hole to edge one stroke ahead of the pack, and produced similar heroics in Delhi with a chip-in par save on the second to last hole during the final day which kept him tied for the lead before triumphing in a play-off over compatriot SSP Chawrasia.

“I’m just glad that these things happened to me. Sometimes the mediation comes in handy and I can calm my nerves and stay in the moment. Not over-thinking helps, and on those occasions I wasn’t trying to think of an outcome, I was just staying in the present and doing my best in that moment. Obviously you need a bit of luck,” said Lahiri.

“Technically, one of the missing links was consistency and my putting has been a big factor in the last three weeks. I’ve been putting less pressure on myself to make putts and playing with more freedom.

“I’ve done the same things all of last year, which was fantastic and consistent. It’s great that I can convert my opportunities. It’s always best to not have expectations, but if I play to my potential, I can play my best and compete and that’s the attitude to keep.”

With India’s trailblazers Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh having won tournaments on American and European soil, Lahiri hopes to go one step better and win a Major Championship. He will get a first crack with a maiden appearance at the Masters Tournament next month, although Lahiri will be managing his own expectations.

“No doubt, there’s massive room for improvement,” said Lahiri, who represented India as an amateur before hitting the professional trail in 2007.

“A huge area to make big strides is with my short game and I want to take my fitness level up as well. I know that I need to learn to be comfortable when I am playing in different conditions, so there’s a lot to improve.”


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