26 December, 2017: It was the early part of June this year. Anirban Lahiri was hurting from a streak of missed cuts. After a first round 74 at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio you could have forgiven a bit of apprehension in the mind of the young Indian golfer. But then champions aren’t wired to imagine grief, Anirban is no exception.
The 30-year-old bared the steel in his veins with a remarkable week from there to underline his credentials as a world class golfer. He worked his way back up the order with scores of 70 and 69 on the middle days.
Anirban reserved his best for Sunday. The Florida resident produced a spotless 67 that catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard. As the weather turned moist and hazy that afternoon, Anirban may have been the only man with a clear vision that afternoon. Eventually, he finished in T2, his best finish yet on the PGA TOUR.
With another full season on the PGA TOUR behind him, Anirban is intent on raising the stakes. You can be assured that nothing less than a win will please the conscientious man with an armed forces upbringing.
A rousing start to his 2018 season – T10 in the CIMB Classic, T5 in The CJ Cup and T14 in the OHL Classic – has set the tone for another imposing season on the PGA TOUR. Anirban returned home recently to spend a few weeks in the company of his coach Vijay Divecha.
The two worked up plenty of winter sweat at the Kalhaar Blues & Greens in Ahmedabad. “I am very excited about the new year. My consistency has improved over the later part of the season, but I haven’t been very happy with my averages in the final round,” said Anirban in a conversation with the author.
“Vijay sir and I were able to work on some specific aspects related to my game – both physical and mental – to sharpen my game and instincts.”
The Indian is currently ranked 66, leaving him outside the reckoning for the Masters in April. But with three months to go, Anirban plans to play at least in six events trying to fix just that.
“My first goal is to break back inside the top 50. I am traveling back to America immediately after the Eurasia Cup,” said Anirban. “I will play the Farmers Insurance, Waste Management, followed by the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic. Hopefully, the results will be good enough to push me up the rankings.”
After spending most of his time overseas, the three weeks in Ahmedabad afforded Anirban a chance to catch up with his colleagues and watch some younger players in action.
Chikkarangappa and Udayan Mane are two of the other students from an ever growing collection of stars under the tutelage of Divecha. While Mane finished second on the PGTI Tour’s order of merit, Chikkarangappa endured a difficult season on the Asian Tour.
But Anirban was absolutely positive about the outlook for Chikka.
“Chikkarangappa will come back stronger. This is his first taste of a slump, so he will learn from it. I expect him to emerge from this well and produce some top-quality golf soon.”
Anirban was also enthused by the quality of golf on the junior circuit.
“I am most excited about the kind of talent that could emerge from Gujarat over the next few years,” added Lahiri. “The talent available, the quality of the academy there and the presence of Vijay Divecha will all work to produce some really good players.”
As Indian golf goes from strength to strength, the increasing depth of talent is certainly a warm sign for the future. Anirban can only add to the fire with his performances on the PGA TOUR this season.
He is eager to win in America, and Indian golf fans may not have to wait too long to join in the celebrations.