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On a roll

On a roll
Enjoying a fantastic run of form which saw him claim his fifth Asian Tour title last week, golfer Anirban Lahiri is hoping for a memorable debut when he takes his place among the game’s elite at next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions. The final world golf championships event of the year will be held at the Sheshan International Golf Club from 6-9 November and will feature some of the world’s best players including Australia’s Adam Scott, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson of United States.

The 27-year-old Indian earned his place among the star studded field by virtue of his current position where he sits in second place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit. While he may have played in other Chinese cities before, this will be the first time Lahiri is teeing up at the Sheshan International Golf Club and he will arrive in Shanghai on the back of a sizzling form that saw him lift his fifth Asian Tour title in Macau last week.

‘I believe the last time I played in China was during my rookie season on the Asian Tour. That was a long time back. But I’ve since grown as a player maybe from 24 months back. This is the time of the year where you want to play your best golf. We’ve got the biggest events with prize money and world ranking points and there’s a lot to play for. I’m playing well and I’m confident. I’m focused on what I need to do,’ said Lahiri.

Lahiri, who has set himself a target of breaking into the world’s top-50 by the end of the season, is confident of taking on the best players in the world at the WGC-HSBC Champions, having notched two wins and four top-10s on the region’s premier Tour this season. ‘My game is there and I know I can compete against the best players in the world. There are still some areas that I know I must get better. I’m working on it and it’s obviously improving,’ said Lahiri, who is ranked 69th in the world.While hard work and determination has made him the world-class player that he is today, Lahiri’s upbringing and attitude also played a huge part in his meteoric rise.

‘My attitude and how I come across is from the Indian values that I have. I look up to a lot of these players like Ernie (Els) and Jeev (Milkha Singh). But when I’m on the course, I feel I can beat anyone of them on my day. I do respect them and I’m there to play golf,’ said Lahiri. The leading four players from the Asian Tour Order of Merit including David Lipsky and Jason Knutzon of the United States, Filipino Antonio Lascuna and Lahiri will feature in the Chinese showpiece which is the only country outside the United States to currently be hosting a one of the four prestigious World Golf Championship events. EurAsia Cup captain and three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand will also spearhead the Asian challenge alongside home favourite Liang Wen-chong.

Lahiri, who finished joint 10th here when the club hosted the Malaysian Open in April, has set several goals which include breaking into the world’s top-50 and becoming the fourth Indian to claim the accolade as Asia’s number one. ‘It is difficult for me to go out on the golf course and just play with a result in mind. Obviously it’s an important week in terms of where the Order of Merit goes. I have to just look to play well. The Order of Merit is something that I would like to win. I’m not going to let that play on my mind so much, just focus on playing good golf for four days,’ said Lahiri, who trails Merit leader David Lipsky by about USD 160,000. As the only tournament jointly sanctioned with the PGA TOUR, Lahiri knows that achieving a CIMB double would provide him with a shortcut to the United States.

‘It is one of the great things about playing in Asia. We have a great Tour and we have a lot of opportunities on higher Tours as well. I think we’re all very glad to be here and to be playing in such a fantastic event with a good field, and obviously if you can play your best, you can earn that opportunity to play in America,’ he said.

Lahiri started the previous week on the 90th spot in the rankings. In Macau, he dropped just one bogey in his last 44 holes. He had six birdies, four on the front nine and two on the back nine and his only blemish was the bogey on seventh. His previous bogey came on the first hole, after he started from the tenth on the second day.

A proof of his consistency was that he had two flawless rounds ? 61 on first day and 67 on third and he wavered only on the second when he dropped five bogeys in his 73. Among other Indians, Shiv Kapur (67) was eighth at 10-under 274, while Jyoti Randhawa (70) was tied 15th at six-under 278. Jeev Milkha Singh (68) was tied 26th at three-under 285 and SSP Chowrasia (70) was tied 32nd at two-under 286.

On how he has improved in the last two years, Lahiri said, ‘It’s difficult to keep the graph going up, up, up. The last 24 months have been fantastic. I won my first event four years back and it’s been an upward curve. My targets have been qualitative, not quantitative. My target has kept my perspective on where I need to go. I will have to keep changing my targets and trying my heart out to reach those targets. I have to keep working harder and working smarter to become better. That’s why I think I’ve managed to improve. I’m willing to put in whatever is needed.’

Talking about the his biggest influence, the golfer said, ‘It’s difficult to say that one person influence my golf.

There are so many people. You see a good golfer, a successful golfer and there are at least seven or 10 people behind that story. There’s a coach, a mother, a father, a golf course,  a trainer, a physio, there’re so many people. It takes a team. I have had the same coach for the last 13 years and we’ve grown together. My parents have supported me and my wife now, who have supported me.
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