From the well-established Anirban Lahiri to the up and coming Shubhankar Sharma — a mix of young and experienced will comprise the Indian challenge at the USD three million Maybank Malaysian Championships golf tournament starting on Thursday.
Shubhankar, at 20, has been knocking on the doors of his first professional title for some time now and his last three starts have seen him finish inside Top-11.
Even as he approaches one of the biggest events of his young life, there is Mukesh Kumar, who seeks new goals after his maiden Asian Tour win at a ripe age of 51 late last year.
Shubhankar has seven Top-10s as a professional but is still looking for his first win, while Mukesh in 20 years since his first appearance in an international event, has teed up only 58 times, and mostly in India. But he does have nine Top-10s, including his maiden win at Panasonic Open India last year.
Both will be playing the Malaysian Championships with a lot of hope and in between this spectrum of ages are other Indians with a lot of hopes, expectations and goals.
If Lahiri has a lot to remember Malaysia for, as he won one of his biggest wins in this country two years ago at the Maybank Malaysian Open, there is also Arjun Atwal, the only one to have tasted success on the PGA Tour, and who has won twice in Malaysia, back in 2003 and 2008.
Jyoti Randhawa won the season-ending event of Asian Tour in Malaysia back in 2004.
The last time Lahiri played a co-sanctioned tournament in Malaysia, but at the TPC Kuala Lumpur he was paired in the final round with Lee Westwood and the Indian went on to win the title, that set him on the high road to PGA Tour and the Top-50 of the world. The third player in the group is 2011 Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel.
Late last year, Lahiri came tantalisingly close to his maiden PGA Tour win, as he held a four-shot lead going into the final round.
He found the most inappropriate time to shoot a nightmarish nine on a par-5 hole, also at the TPC Kuala Lumpur, and finished third, four shots behind the winner, Justin Thomas. That’s one result he needs to set right.
Lahiri, is now on the PGA Tour, but does not forget his ‘home’ Tour — the Asian Tour, or the European Tour, from where he catapulted onto the biggest league of all. And, it is not just the Malaysian Championships this week, but also the Hero Indian Open next month, which he will play.
Malaysia and Lahiri go back a long time. As he remembers himself, he has played in this country often enough since he was a junior and an amateur.
“It is like coming back home for me. I won a couple of years ago in Kuala Lumpur. Obviously I’ve played in two EurAsia Cups and so many years on the Asian Tour so it is always a warm welcome for me. I played at Saujana as an amateur many years ago so it is like de-ja-vu for me again. It has been a while but it is nice to be back,” Lahiri said.
Other Indians in the field are Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv Kapur, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Rahil Gangjee, Chiragh Kumar, Rashid Khan and S Chikkarangappa.