Lahiri: 'Have to go into next year with a freer attitude'

On a whirlwind trip back home, the 29-year-old discussed his injury, plans for next season, and felt he was simply trying too hard.

Anirban Lahiri finished 57th at the Olympic Games.   -  AP

By his own lofty standards, 2016 has been a disappointing year for Anirban Lahiri. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, tied for 68th at the British Open, and finished 57th at the Olympic Games. While adapting to life in his first full season on the PGA Tour has not been easy, a neck injury has not helped either. Playing without pause has taken its toll. “I found myself on a treadmill from 2014,” he says. “You can only abuse the body so much.”

But Lahiri is wiser now and, having retained his card for the 2016-17 PGA Tour, intends to do much better than the tied sixth that was his best effort this season. On a whirlwind trip back home, the 29-year-old discussed his injury, plans for next season, and felt he was simply trying too hard.



Excerpts

How has the year been so far?

I have not lived up to my own expectations. I had a terrible ‘Major’ season. But it was a difficult year to start because I had to transition full-time to America. I played a lot more events in the first six months than I’ve ever done in my career (21 events this season). I've played non-stop since August 2014. Between travel and work, I didn't give myself enough time to exercise and rest. The injury was down to over-use. I got good starts in a number of events, but then I put pressure on myself and the weekends were bad.



How was transitioning to the U.S?

It’s not necessarily difficult but things are different. The grass varies from one part of America to another: the west coast, the desert in Arizona, the east coast, the mid-west. For a lot of the guys born in the U.S., they know what to do where. Those are the adjustments that can frustrate you. And it puts pressure on your short game. In Europe, you more or less have similar grass. And without being disrespectful, in a field of 140 in Europe you have 50 guys who can win. In America, there are 100.



What are your plans for the rest of the year?

The immediate focus is to get back to full fitness. My rehabilitation is almost complete. But I’m going to be very cautious in making my return to competitive golf. I don't want to aggravate my injury. I’m also planning to cut down on my events towards the end of the year. I will take time off to work on the physical and mental aspects of my game.



Do you think you have been playing too much?

I found myself on a treadmill from 2014. Everything happened in fast forward. Being in the top 50 of the world opened up a whole new avenue. Suddenly, I was flying constantly to America to play the Masters and the WGC. You play the game for such big events and won’t let them pass. It wasn’t a case of overplaying but having the opportunity to play. Arjun Atwal told me I had to play a lot of events in the first two years to decide what courses and events suited me best. I did what I had to do. But there's only so much you can abuse the body.



What are your targets for next season?

The primary target is to get into contention on Sundays. I want to be in that position where if I go out on the back nine and shoot a five-under, I have a chance to win. I know I can compete for a win on the PGA Tour.



What lessons have you learnt from this year?

I've thought about how much stress I choose to take. A lot of it has to do with how badly I want to do well. This year has been a big reset for me. You have a graph that goes upwards and then you hit a plateau. I have to stop wanting it so bad and allow it to happen. Vijay (Divecha) sir used to say when I was 16, "Anirban, you have to get out of your own way." I have to go into next year with a slightly freer attitude.