Lahiri eyes historic hat-trick

Tue 25 Feb 2014

Lahiri eyes historic hat-trick

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New Delhi, February 25: Indian rising star Anirban Lahiri will be shooting for an historic hat-trick of victories when he defends his title at the season-opening SAIL-SBI Open presented by Incredible India starting on Wednesday.
No player in Asian Tour history has won the same tournament for three consecutive years and the 26-year-old, who is coming off his career best season after finishing third on the Order of Merit, will get his chance at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC), which has become a happy hunting ground.
Apart from his success at the SAIL-SBI Open last year and in 2012, Lahiri was also victorious at the fabled venue in the 2011 Panasonic Open India but he will need to overcome a stellar field which includes Bangladeshi’s Siddikur Rahman, former Asian Tour number ones Thaworn Wiratchant and Jyoti Randhawa, Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg, Thailand’s Prom Meesawat, American Berry Henson, Filipino Angelo Que and Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura.
“It’s always nice to be back at DGC where I’ve had so much success in the recent past. I’m feeling really good. I had a good finish to last season and I have played a few (domestic) events this year and it’s been going good. I’m looking forward to this week,” said Lahiri, who defeated countryman Rashid Khan in a play-off for last year’s win.
From a course which he dreaded stepping foot on early in his professional career, Lahiri has since mastered the ultra-demanding Delhi layout. Part of his strategy is to leave his driver out of his golf bag and to also keep his expectations low.
“When I came back last year, I didn’t expect to win. I’m coming in here with similar expectations. Obviously I am comfortable on this course. If I continue to do what I’ve done well in the past which is to have a good strategy and execute it well, I’ll be happy. I hope to give myself a chance on Saturday.”
As one of the new generation of Indian stars, Lahiri, who will represent Team Asia in the inaugural EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM against Europe in Malaysia next month, hopes to keep moving up the golfing hierarchy.
“I’m looking to break the top-50 or 60 in the world rankings and will also try to get my European card this year,” said Lahiri, who is currently 103rd in the world.
“I think the consistency was good last year. Having played with the top players, you see how they go about their game and see what is so different that they are where they are. I’m trying to improve on my ball striking and my putting and if I can improve on those, it will make a big difference,” said Lahiri.
One of Lahiri’s chief rivals from earning a place in Asian golf annals is Bangladeshi Siddikur, who triumphed at DGC when he won the Hero Indian Open in November. Siddikur also feels at home at the tree-lined Delhi course, thanks to his straight shooting game.
“I have really good memories. It’s all about fairways and greens here as there is so much trouble left and right, even for the second shots. It’ll be important to keep everything straight,” said Siddikur, who also earned his place in the EurAsia Cup after finishing fourth on the Order of Merit.
“I don’t have any special goals for this year. I just want to remember my 2013 season as it was the best golf of my life. I want to recall back on those good memories to push me forward.”
Thailand’s Prom will enter the first tournament of the 2014 season as one of the hot favourites after a stellar year which saw finish eighth on the rankings with two runner-up finishes and a third place. He also finished runner-up to Lahiri in the 2012 SAIL-SBI Open.
“You have to be very patient around here. I never use my driver on this course and you have to manage your game well. My style of play suits this course. You can’t be too aggressive,” said Prom. “I had a very good last few months at the end of the 2013 season. I was hitting the ball so good,” added the man nicknamed “The Big Dolphin.”
After safely finishing inside the top-60 in his rookie season, Korean-American Chan Kim, the Qualifying School winner in 2013, hopes his sophomore year will yield better results. He was the joint halfway leader here last season before finishing joint eighth.
“When I go to other courses, I tend to play really aggressive. But over here, you have to play different shots and be smart off the tee. It prevents me from being too aggressive and making too many mistakes. I like how this course is set up,” said the powerful Chan.
Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, meanwhile, withdrew from the SAIL-SBI Open with an elbow injury.  The SAIL-SBI Open is sponsored by Steel Authority of India Limited and State Bank of India.
About the Asian Tour
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