In 2004, when a young Anirban Lahiri won the title in the Indian Golf Union Samarveer Sahi Amateur Golf Championship in Chandigarh, it was Lahiri’s first win on the amateur circuit. The 33-year-old Indian golfer, who has returned from the USA after competing in five PGA Tour tournaments, will play in Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational presented by Take Sports at Chandigarh Golf Club starting Wednesday. The 2016 Rio Olympian golfer still feels motivated by the 2004 win and terms it a good memory to propel him to a good finish this week.
“It feels good to relive the memory of winning my first amateur title here at Chandigarh Golf Club 16 years ago and it does seem like a lifetime ago. It was a phase when I was able to break through and it acts as a sense of belief that I can play well on the Chandigarh Golf Course. It is very important that one hits a very good tee shot. If you can do that, you put yourself in all the four days of competition. While the greens are not that fast as I am used to, they are still in a good shape and the key will be to adapt,” said the nine-time international winner golfer.
While Lahiri has won a total of 12 titles on the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) circuit in his professional career, Lahiri has not played on the PGTI Tour since 2014. His last PGTI title came in the form of PGTI Ahmedabad Masters before he earned his PGA Tour card in 2016. Lahiri, whose tied-fifth finish in the PGA Championship in 2015 is the best finish by any Indian golfer in a major championship, had regained his PGA Tour card for 2019-2020 season and has played in five PGA Tour events starting August this year with a tied-sixth place finish in the Corales Championship his best finish of this season so far.
“I went back to the USA in August when the travel restrictions ended. While I played one pending tournament of the 2019-2020 season, playing in four tournaments in the 2020-2021 season has boosted my performance. There were a lot of positives for me in every event and I played some good golf in each tournament. While I trained in India prior to going back to the USA, I had to take my time to adjust to USA conditions where the greens are much faster and there are different type of grasses on different courses,” Lahiri said.
Playing on the PGA Tour also meant that Lahiri had to follow the PGA Tour’s Bio-Bubble guidelines, which included mandatory pre-flight test for Covid-19 before each event and rapid test on arrival at the golf course every week. While there were instances of some of the golfers testing positive for Covid-19 prior to the tournament week like world number Dustin Johnson in October apart from three golfers testing positive prior to the RSM Classic last month, Lahiri believes that the PGA Tour is taking all the precautions.
“The PGA Tour has a very extensive testing mechanism and more than 500 Covid tests are done every week in a tournament. We are tested two days prior to the flight and if the result is negative, we can travel to the respective city and are tested again before entering the bio-bubble at the golf course every week. Golfers are not allowed to dine with anybody else or go out of hotel. As a golfer, it is also about exercising good hygiene. Last month, in Bermuda, fans were allowed with proper social distancing in place and it was good to see that. I have also been using the Whoop fitness band to monitor blood pressure and oxygen levels,” Lahiri said.
Prior to going to the USA, Lahiri also spent time with his coach Vijay Divecha. With the qualification for next year Tokyo Olympics running till June next year, Lahiri, who is currently ranked 489th in world rankings and is the ninth-placed Indian golfer in the rankings, believes that he still has time to book a spot in his second Olympics. “During the lockdown, I got a chance to rework on some of my basics and techniques with my coach Vijay Divecha. It was about some of minor mistakes which had crept in my technique. We worked on my posture and stance apart from my movement through the process of hitting the ball and it helped my game in the USA,” Lahiri concluded.