Kuala Lumpur, February 3: Anirban Lahiri was ‘scared’ when he made his Maybank Malaysian Open debut some five years ago but how times have changed for the better for the Indian star.
The 27-year-old tees up at the Asian Tour’s season-opening US$3 million showpiece on Thursday as one of the in-form players following a career best year in 2014 where he finished second on the Order of Merit following two victories and seven top-10s and was later voted as the Players’ Player of the Year.
He will take on some of the game’s biggest names at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s West course from Thursday including title holder Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, new Asian Tour number one David Lipsky, Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, both former champions of the Maybank Malaysian Open.
“It is easy to say that the first time I played in the Maybank Malaysian Open, I was a little bit scared and unsure of myself. That’s now in the past. Not only have I matured but I’ve improved mentally and I’m able to focus on what I need to do instead of what’s going on around me,” said Lahiri.
“If anything it spurs me on to do better (playing in top fields). It inspires me to push myself a little harder. Having said that, I’ve played consistently in top notch fields. It is not a new experience anymore.”
Climbing his way into the world’s top-50 – Lahiri is currently ranked 73rd – is a priority for the new season while he also hopes to establish himself on the European Tour after gaining a card from Qualifying School and eventually play his way onto the PGA Tour.
The Indian star is not ready to rest on his laurels in his quest for more glory. “It is a clean slate. You’ve got to start from scratch,” he insisted.
“My goals are the same. Top-50, playing in Europe and America, these are all the goals that I will always have in mind right through my career. I have to build this season, primarily playing in the European Tour but I’ll play my minimum on the Asian Tour. I do enjoy being in Asia so I’ll still play here.”
With the Maybank Malaysian Open being co-sanctioned with the European Tour, Lahiri, who finished tied 10th here last season, is eager to start producing top results. He managed to play in Abu Dhabi through a sponsor’s invite three weeks ago and failed to get into the fields in Qatar and Dubai.
Lahiri reckons the best way to rectify his lack of starts in Europe is by winning one of the co-sanctioned tournaments in Asia over the next three weeks to jump onto the winner’s exemption category.
“Sometimes it is tough to get into events early in the year. It is frustrating especially when you want to be out there competing. I’m at a stage where the more I play in better fields, the better I will be. If I do well this week, then it will have a positive impact. That’s the best way to move forward,” said Lahiri, who is a five-time Asian Tour winner.