Lahiri rides on happy memories ahead of star-studded PGA

Jeev has so far played 14 Majors — highest by an Indian while the Charlotte event will be Lahiri’s 13th.

Anirban Lahiri will tee off in the afternoon at the back end of the field in Charlotte PGA Championship.   -  Getty Images

Anirban Lahiri will earn the distinction of being only one Major away from Jeev Milkha Singh, when he tees off at the 99th PGA Championship in Charlotte tomorrow.

Jeev has so far played 14 Majors — highest by an Indian while the Charlotte event will be Lahiri’s 13th.

Lahiri will tee off in the afternoon at the back end of the field and in the company of American Danny Lee and Australian Marc Leishman, both of whom have had impressive seasons.

The Rio Olympian will need to watch out for the wind and forecast of a possible showers tomorrow afternoon, but will get out early on Friday.

An upbeat Lahiri, who has his Bengaluru-based coach, Vijay Divecha with him this week, said, “It is always nice to come back to a venue, where I have some playing experience. I played the Wells Fargo Championship 2016 here and I do remember having a great start with a 66. Of course, the rest of the week did not pan out as well, but I do know a few things about the layout.”

That his best result in a Major has come in a PGA adds to the happy feelings. His tied 5th is the best Indian result at any Major and the only Top-10 after his tied 9th by Jeev at the 2008 PGA Championships.

Lahiri is now firmly entrenched on the world’s biggest stage - the PGA Tour after having secured his place in the FedExCup Play-offs later this month.

And he has also secured his card for 2018.

“That’s always a bit of relief,” said Lahiri, whose tied third at CIMB Classic late last year in the wrap-around season, and tied 2nd at the Memorial, sealed his card.

The tied 2nd at Memorial has been the only top-five finish in the current calendar year other than the tied fifth finish at the Hero Indian Open earlier in March.

Lahiri took the week off after RBC Canadian Open, where he missed the cut, and arrived here early with his coach. He said he wanted to get used to the soft layout because of the rains and put in some practice.

“The course has taken a lot of rain and is playing very long. The key this week will be the greens. They are quite similar to Augusta in speed and slope. It will be extremely important to keep the ball on the correct side to give yourself the best opportunities,” added Lahiri.

“My coach Vijay (DIvecha) is here right now. Vijay and I have been working the past couple of weeks on new practice and attitude techniques. That is something that will definitely help me on the course. I am very excited to be back at another Major, but hopefully the weather will not play spoilsport as a lot of rain and thunder is predicted.”

This week may well be one of the strongest assembled though the season, with all but three players in Top 115 of the world here at Quail Hollow.

The ones missing are No. 36 Brandt Snedeker (rib injury), No.64 Martin Kaymer (shoulder injury) and No.75 Scott Piercy (unspecified injury).

The man to watch will inevitably be Jordan Spieth, who is atop the FedExCup standings and looking at a shot at becoming the youngest to complete a Grand Slam, two weeks after adding The (British) Open to the two Majors (Masters and US Open) he won in 2015.

Rory McIlroy has not added a Major to the four he had won till 2014, but the fact that his last major was PGA at Valhalla will surely spur him on to make it five.

Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Jimmy Walker all of whom won their first Major in last 15 months will seek to double that number, even as two veterans Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, who have five and four Majors respectively, will both tee up for their 100th Major.

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