Anirban Lahiri scaled a new high for Indian golf by becoming the first from the country to finish inside the top-five of a Major, signing off a brilliant tied fifth in the prestigious PGA Championships.
Lahiri played a superb final round of 68, after first three rounds of 70-67-70, for a total of 13-under 275. In fact, at one stage, he rose to as high as tied third during the day.
The 28-year-old, who hit the global golf headlines with stunning wins in the Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open in a span of three weeks, will return to top-50 in the new rankings and is also a near-certainty for the International Team for the President’s Cup in Incheon, Korea in October.
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“This gives me a massive amount of confidence, knowing that I can be out here mixing it up with the best, knowing that I need to get just a little bit better to maybe get closer or over the line in the future. So it’s been a huge week for me,” Lahiri said.
Talking of the finish and being somewhere close to top, Lahiri said, “It feels great. It’s a bit of a relief, really. I’ve never really gotten into contention. I won’t really say I was in contention here, because I was a long ways out. But I was in the mix. It’s a great feeling.”
The tied fifth end saw Lahiri improve on the tied ninth finish in the PGA Championships in 2008 by Jeev Milkha Singh. Lahiri, who played all four Majors and made cuts in three was tied 49th at Masters and tied 30th at The Open.
Jason Day finally won a Major, after nine top-10 finishes. One of day’s top-10 was this year at US Open where he suffered an attack of vertigo but still finished tied-ninth.
He was also fourth at British Open and has been second twice at US Open and once at Masters. Day (67) totalled a record 20-under 268 and finished three shots ahead of Jordan Spieth (68) was second at 17-under.
Branden Grace (14-under) and Justin Rose (14-under) were third and fourth, while Lahiri tied with Brooks Koepka for fifth.
Masters and US Open champion, Spieth finished in Top-4 of each of the four Majors as he was Tied fourth at British Open and was second at PGA.
The consolation for Spieth, who started his string of success with the successive wins in Australian Open and Tiger Woods’ run Hero World Challenge in December, was that he rose to No. 1 in World Golf Rankings ahead of Rory McIlroy, who on return from an ankle injury was Tied-17.
Lahiri had six birdies and two bogeys in his round of 68. The Indian, who leads the Asian Tour standings and is also among Top-10 in Europe, summed up the week, saying, “It’s been a fantastic week. It started off with the long drive on Tuesday and, yeah, it’s been fantastic.
“I’ve loved the golf course right from the first day and first look. But obviously a little disappointed with that finish. I think a couple of shots better would have got my card on the PGA TOUR. So a little disappointed about that,” he said.
“I think that I was playing — I was really in a good zone. I was playing well, I was hitting it good. Then I think the 3 putt on 10 from five or six feet, I think that was like a kick in the stomach for me. It just knocked the wind out of me.
Lahiri said he hardly kept an eye on the leaderboard while going through his round.
“I did really well to gather myself from a difficult position, I made birdie on 11. Kind of steadied the boat a little bit. But again, kind of disappointed to finish in the end. But I wasn’t really looking at the leaderboard much because it was so bunched up, guys were going back and forth, so there was no point.”
Lahiri started with a birdie and then never took his foot off the pedal. He had gained momentum and he kept going. He added a second birdie, after having an eagle chance from 25 feet.
A third birdie followed on sixth, where he drove the green and came to 23 feet for an eagle, but got only an eagle. A 17-footer on ninth saw him turn in four-under, one of the best among the leading players.
He started the back nine with his first bogey of the day and that was a key moment in the round. Till then, Lahiri was going great and on 10th, he three-putted from around five feet.
Lahiri himself called it a “kick in the stomach”. He quickly got a birdie on 12th and added another on Par-5 16. But once again he closed with a bogey on 18th, where he dropped a total of four shots in the week.
The 18th, which played the toughest the whole week took a double bogey from Lahiri on first day, a bogey on third and another on the final day.
“I putted a lot better today. But it’s obviously the scoring aspect that I feel is lacking a little bit. I think that’s where I need to tighten it up, just around the greens and make a few more 10- and 12-footers. That should do the trick.”