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Anirban Lahiri breaks new ground for Indian golf

Anirban Lahiri recorded T5 finish at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, the best by an Indian at a major.

Anirban Lahiri in action during the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits

Great time for Indian golf

There is a fragrant aroma of success that is permeating through Indian golf this season. Success stories have been flowing in all summer – names such as Shubham Jaglan, Aditi Ashok and Ranveer Singh Saini have kept the trail of glory running through their heroic exploits in recent months.

Anirban Lahiri decided it was time to redefine the boundaries for the game in India with his T5 finish at the recent PGA Championship.

Educated under the guidance of golf guru Vijay Divecha in Bengaluru, Lahiri has shown plenty of promise over the past few seasons. His Open Championship debut in 2012,where he finished T31 put this young golfer on the international map.

The ambitious golfer kept working hard, affirming his great promise by ending 2014 second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit. Riding the momentum in his favour, Lahiri won the Maybank Malaysian Open to earn the right to be on the European Tour.

A terrific victory in Delhi, coming back from a five shot deficit in the final round of the Indian Open underlined the poise and determination of the 28-year-old Indian.These two victories helped Lahiri break into the top 50 of the world, opening the doors to the PGA Tour.

While many wondered if Lahiri could survive the rigours at the highest level, he marched confidently to showcase his skills on the biggest stages of golf. Making the most of his opportunities, the Bangalorean produced some remarkable rounds of golf this season.

Remarkable improvement over time

The 72 he shot in the final round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club was a special effort, considering that he did not make a single bogey over the 18 holes. It was an impressive effort, especially considering that Lahiri was compromised by the 75 and 74 he made in the second and third rounds.

It was a statement of great purpose and character for Anirban to end the first major of the year on his own terms. I have spoken to him about this blemish less effort more than once and he reminded me how much better it could have been. “I missed a few putts,” he would explain before going on to ruminate the fact that he could have done better.

That is an attitude that has served Anirban well at the biggest events. Even at the Open Championship in July, Anirban shot 69-70-71-72 – an outcome that reflected the young Indian’s ability to play steady golf over the course of a major tournament. His six under 282 helped him finish T30, but he was disappointed to slip away after spending time inside the top ten that week.

Going into the final major of the year, Lahiri had a poor start to his preparations. But once again he turned out in his resilient avatar, after a 77 in the first round. It was clear that Lahiri wasn’t ready to allow a poor round to compromise him, soon as he made a brilliant 67 in the third round.

Best finish by an Indian at a major

Reaching the Whistling Straits, there was plenty of talk about a punitive course designed by the legendary Pete Dye. But Anirban took to the lake side course like a fish to water. Winning the Long Drive Competition on Tuesday established his hunger, when he won the prelude with a 327 drive on the par-5 second hole.

It was interesting to watch Lahiri’s irked responses to some unflattering questions from the western press. Obviously here was a golfer, who saw no value in being a flash in the pan. He spent those first few days at this PGA Championship, reading the course with his caddie Rajiv Sharma.

Playing with great control and determination, Anirban produced a world class performance (70-67-70-68) for an overall score of 13-under 275. His score last week was better than the likes of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. More importantly, in finishing fifth he recorded the best ever major finish by an Indian, surpassing the ninth place of Jeev Milkha Singh at the same tournament in 2008.

The 2015 season will always be the year that Lahiri put Indian golf back on the international map. But we can be rest assured that Lahiri is not the kind of golfer to rest on his laurels. He is clearly the kind of golfer who is set to chase greater glory on the road ahead.

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