On the right track

SANDEEP SAXENA

The 137th ranked Bangalore golfer, who started the calendar with a bang by winning the SAIL-SBI Open at the DGC, has experienced one of his best years on the Asian Tour and hopes to excel further. By Y.B. Sarangi.

Anirban Lahiri (71, 67, 67, 70) narrowly missed out on winning the Indian Open title on the 50th edition of the elite Asian Tour event at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC). He had to be contended with his third second place finish on the Tour this season. He shared the second spot with fellow countryman S. S. P. Chowrasia (69, 68, 66, 72), as the duo ended up one stroke behind Bangladesh’s Mohammad Siddikur, who won with a total of 14-under 274 (66, 66, 67, 75).

The 137th ranked Bangalore golfer, who started the calendar with a bang by winning the SAIL-SBI Open at the DGC, has experienced one of his best years on the Asian Tour and hopes to excel further.

After his fine performance at the Hero Indian Open, the 29-year-old Lahiri, ranked fourth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, spoke about his present and future.

Question: You had a long wait on the 18th hole (because of a co-competitor hitting it into the bushes). You had a long putt… you could have hold that to force a playoff…

Answer: Frankly, I made an error with my approach shot. In the past at the DGC I have played similar shots — once to get into a playoff, once to win in a playoff. On each occasion, my adrenalin and judgement had been very good and the greens had been lot firmer as well. I should have hit a nine-iron instead of a wedge. It was a full club shot for about 40 feet. I cannot really rue the fact that I had to really wait. But I usually do not really miss 45-foot putts everyday to force a playoff. I made a lot of mistakes on the back nine, did not hit it too close.

How was your final round?

I think my final round was lot like my previous rounds. The only difference was I made nine birdies. The entire week I played brilliant golf shots, followed by careless putt shots. I think SSP, Siddikur and I have dropped the maximum number of golf shots this week. I made a lot of birdies, a two doubles, three or four bogeys. You cannot do that when you are trying to win a tournament on the back nine. I played one-over on the last seven holes. My caddie looked at me and said, “You have never done that in such a situation before.” That sums up that I never got the momentum going and it is unfortunate because I could have turned the tide.

With each year you are coming closer to winning the Indian Open title…

I should be proud of my Indian Open record. In 2009 I finished third, last year I was fifth and this year second. Also, this is my third second-place finish on the Asian Tour this year. I am happy to say that I am putting myself in contention on Sundays. I finished second by one shot this week, second by one shot in Malaysia (Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters). I guess I am doing something right, I must be. It tells me that I must keep doing that and remain patient.

You have got a good record at DGC…

I just hope that the golf course remains friendly to me in the years to come. DGC is like the home of Indian golf — it is the St. Andrew’s of India. All the history is here and RCGC (Kolkata), but now DGC has stole the march. So, if I can maintain my love affair with the golf course here, in the years to come, I will be very happy.

The face of Asian golf is changing. What’s your take on that?

I would like to believe so. It is good for Asian golf that new faces are coming to the limelight and performing on the big stage. Personally speaking, Gagangjeet (Bhullar) and I have done well in the past few years and we look to push on from here. I think Angelo (Que) is a great player. Pariya (Junhasavasdikul), a young Thai boy, is also playing very well. Obviously, Jyoti (Randhawa), Jeev (Milkha Singh), Thaworn (Wiratchant) and Thongchai (Jaidee) are the legends on the Asian Tour. But it is nice to come up and compete and beat these guys on a more regular basis.

You are going to participate in the World Cup. How do you look forward to the challenge?

I think I can speak for Gagan and myself. It means the whole world to us. It is not everyday that as a professional you get to represent your country. We have done it on numerous occasions as juniors and amateurs and we have had a great record as a team — Gagan, Himmat (Rai), Ajeetesh (Sandhu) and I. I am really excited, pumped up. I remember two years back, we were in a great position to qualify and we got the jitters, we could not finish it off and missed out on a berth.

I had nightmares for three or four months about putts missed and shots not hit properly. I can tell you that I have come second so many times on PGTI and Asian Tour. I never really had nightmares about those as I was playing for myself. Here is now our opportunity to do something for India on a global scale and I am pretty sure we will go all out to give our best.

How has been the year so far and what are your targets ahead?

It has been bit of a mixed bag. I have not played well in the co-sanctioned (events). My target was to get onto the European Tour. That has not happened. That is something I am going to try next year. I have been playing consistently through the year. In the past years, I have played well in the beginning and lost form towards the end. I have managed to perform week after week. I am extremely happy with my consistency. The year is far from over; we have a lot of events to come especially in the next few weeks. I will try to break into the top-100 in the world. That is one of my targets for the end of the year. Winning the Order of Merit in Asia looks tough unless I win every event coming up. But at least one more title would make it a great season.