Tied fifth at the PGA Championship would loosely equal finishing as a semi-finalist at a tennis Grand Slam. That explains the golfing community’s excitement over Anirban Lahiri’s stunning finish at the Whistling Straits Golf Course on Sunday.
This week, across India, toasts will be raised at club houses, celebrating Lahiri’s coming of age triumph. An Indian golfer rubbing shoulders with the best in the world.
Not so far in the distant past, an Indian at a Major was a significant feat. Lahiri at Wisconsin showed that players from this emerging golfing nation can last till the final day of the competition. They can be contenders.
For the uninitiated, this might seem like a freak result, one of those pleasant surprises that sports throw up, periodically. It’s a view that experts and those who have followed the 28-year-old would not share. In a little more than a year, Lahiri has achieved the near-impossible, he has become consistent. Anyone who has stepped on a course with a club in hand will tell you that’s the most difficult quality to possess in a game where a minor slip-up can send you tumbling down on the leader board.
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Since mid-2014 he has won three big titles – one on the Asian Tour followed by the Malaysian Open and the Indian Open. It is this streak that promoted him to the elite group – the World’s Top 50. Playing high-profile events in US and teeing at the Open Championships at St Andrews Golf Course, the home of golf, were the perks of being consistent. Invitations to big league contests and walking on fabled courses are part of a living dream for Anirban.
However, he isn’t one to get carried away. “All this is a process,” the grounded-golfer would say when anyone asks him about playing at the Majors.
The joint-fifth finish provided Lahiri 22 points and catapulted him to 38th in the world rankings as well as a chance to play in all the majors next year if he finishes the year in top 50. And it’s that chance that the veteran of seven majors needs to grab.
Now the real challenge awaits Lahiri. Next year’s PGA Championships will be at Springfield, USA and would be held just before the Rio Olympics. Lahiri is expected to bag one of two berths for India after the July 2016 cut-offs.
Sunday’s performance will provide him enough confidence to chart out a plan for a coveted medal-finish. In case, Lahiri’s run continues till the Olympics, he is sure to be a household name in India, making golf a mass sport in a cricket crazy country.