Presidents Cup Lahiri Q&A

Thu 10 Sep 2015

Presidents Cup Lahiri Q&A

  • SHARE
STEWART MOORE:  Good afternoon to all the members of the media joining us on the call, and thank you for participating in today's teleconference.  I'd like to welcome 2015 International Presidents Cup team member Anirban Lahiri to this teleconference.
Anirban finished seventh on the International Team points list solidifying his spot as the first golfer from India to qualify for the Presidents Cup in the event's 21 year history.  His resume features 18 worldwide victories, including European Tour wins early this year at the Maybank Malaysian Open and the Hero Indian Open, with the latter vaulting him inside the top 50 of the official World Golf rankings.
As many of you know at last month's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Anirban posted a 13-underpar total to finish tied for fifth locking up the best finish by a player from India in major championship history.
At this point, Anirban, would you please give us opening comments on your Presidents Cup berth.
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  Thanks, Stewart.  It's obviously been a dream of mine and something that I'll always wanted to accomplish as a professional golfer.  The Presidents Cup has a lot of emotional meaning to me as well.  I think I honestly didn't really think about it until I met Nick Price last year in Fiji, and he kind of inspired me to aspire to be on the team, and ever since then it's been right on top of my goals.  Honestly very, very proud to make it to the team and can't wait to get to Korea.
Q.  Could you talk a little more about what the Presidents Cup means to you? Because from the international perspective and being part of the team, that's a huge goal for a lot of guys.  Tell us a little bit more about when you first became aware of it and how much you found yourself thinking about it as the summer unfolded?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  I think the Presidents Cup has always been something that I've watched and been a fan of ever since I was a little kid watching golf on TV.  It's obviously our Ryder Cup, so to speak.  It's always been a dream of mine to actually be on it.  I really didn't think about it that much until late last year.  Pretty much exactly one year ago, because I met Nick Price late August, early September last year, and he walked up to me and said that he'd been watching how I'd been playing in Asia and he was hoping that I'd kick on and push towards the Top 10 list.
At that point in time I think I was in the early 20s or the late teens, around there, because I was in the 70s or 80s of the World rankings.
Obviously, with the wins early in the year I kind of started thinking more about qualifying on the team.  I've been inside the 40 since end of February.  Thereafter I did slip out of the Top 10 for I think it was two weeks or one week the week before the Open Championship.
So, yeah, it has been on my mind.  Obviously it's something that I wanted to do.  In terms of what it means, I think it means a great deal not just to me.  It means a great deal to the people in Asia, to the people back home in India because everybody's been wanting and waiting to see an Indian golfer or an Asian golfer on their team.
It's a proud moment for me.  It's also a proud moment for my teammate, Thongchai Jaidee who has been quite a stalwart for Asian golf.  He's always going to be joining me on the team.  So I think it's going to do a lot of good for golf in the region.  The fact that it's in Korea and in Asia for the first time and they're going to have four or four-and-a-half Asians, if I was to count Danny Lee, it's going to be massive for what the event is going to do for golf in the region.
Q.  What did the two wins earlier this year do for your confidence and your belief in what you could accomplish on a world stage?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  I think they were very, very important, especially with the timing.  The time, it's always good to win early in the season and to win in February was critical for me.  It allowed me to play every single WGC.  It got me into the Masters, and I think experiences from those events are going to really help shape my career in the years to come.
So in terms of my confidence, just the wins by themselves obviously make a massive difference.  They make a huge difference to your belief levels.  Then to come out here and play in those events and to compete in some of those events especially with the final major of the year would be a good result for me, well, it makes a big difference.  It definitely adds to your experience.  It adds to your belief, and when you start getting respected and looked at as a peer among the best players in the world you know you can come back out here and compete at the highest level.  So it did a lot of good things for me.
Q.  I'm wondering, you're going to play in the first three, so there is going to obviously be some money left on the table because you're not playing in the fourth one.  I'm wondering whether you're heading into these things kind of with a green light mindset and if you're just going to go for it?  And I was wondering if you could also address playing these courses for the first time which is not going to make your task any easier since a lot of guys are getting four starts and you're going to get three?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  No, obviously, actually it actually makes it simpler for me.  It makes it clear for me.  Obviously I'm here.  I'm going to try and go for the win or get into a position where I can close it out without having to go to the fourth event.
Obviously, if I was to look at my schedule and prioritize, the Presidents Cup takes precedence over everything else.  So it was a no-brainer for me to go back and get a few days off before I head to Korea.
In terms of playing new courses, I think of every event that I've played this year in America and Europe every single one of them has been pretty much on a new course.  So it's something that I've kind of gotten over mentally about whether I'm comfortable or not.  I just get there and I treat it like every other event.
You don't know what's going to happen.  I mean, Whistling Straits was the first time for me, turned out pretty good.  Some other events didn't turn out so good.  I think at the end of the day if I should play good quality golf, it shouldn't matter if I'm playing for the first time or not.  In my mind I believe I'm going to get my card in three events.  So hopefully I can play my A-game and get it done.
Q.  Let's say you get the job done the next three weeks, would you be looking for membership on both Tours and trying to straddle the Atlantic like some of the other prominent internationals have done, or are you going to worry about that if and when the time comes?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  I've had so many bridges to cross this year that I really haven't really thought even two weeks ahead of me.  So I'm just going to take it one week at a time, one round, one event, one hole at a time.  If and when I do get the job done, I think these are good problems to have, and I'll deal with them when the time comes.
Q.  A year ago at this time I believe you were ready to chase the European Tour card, and as you looked at all the distance your journey has covered in a year's time, how proud are you of how far you've gone?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  Those are kind words.  Obviously, my career has taken an upward swing.  It is kind of a bit like deja vu because I was at Q-school last year in Europe around the same time.  Trying to do the same thing to get to the next level.  Things have turned out pretty good since then, and I'm hoping I can continue that trend by getting my card these next few weeks.
Honestly, I haven't had much time to reflect.  I am very happy and proud of the fact that I've done well in the opportunities that I have.  But I'm looking at a 32-week schedule for this year.  I think that's helped me take it from event to event and not dwell too much on what's happened.  Having said that, a lot of good things have happened, so hopefully that continues.
Q.  You talked about how massive this is, your presence Thongchai Jaidee being there for Asia.  Can you give us a sense of how big it is back home in India, where I know you said growing up you often were maybe the only golfer out there under 30 years old some of the places you were playing.  How big is this back home?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  It's difficult for me to describe because golf has never been in the spotlight.  But when I went back after the PGA I was home for three weeks, and there was a lot of splash in the newspapers and the media.  A lot of my friends and family sent me photographs of various media newspaper cuttings and other displays.  And back home in India, ever since the news was broken, so it is making an impact.
I've met so many people in the last three weeks that I was home that have come up to me and said you've just inspired a whole new generation of kids to aspire to be more than just Asian Tour players or European Tour players.  It's a very humbling and satisfying feeling and I think the Presidents Cup is a big step up on that same path, and it's going to be very, very critical now that I'm on the team to go out there and actually play well and get points for my team because that's going to make a bigger difference than just showing up.
Q.  This is a difficult kind of route to get your PGA TOUR card.  Can you just tell me what was the thinking of your -- what were you thinking when you decided to take the Web.com Tour finals road to the PGA TOUR, and in particularly, when you were 20th, I hope that's not the case, but if you place 20th after three events, would you reconsider the 40th week that you're planning to take off?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  I think you've followed my career enough.  I've seldom made it easy for myself.  I've obviously made a commitment to being here and trying to play on the PGA TOUR.  It was a very easy and natural decision for me to come here and play the Web.com finals because that was my only opportunity this year or of this season to get my card before the next season starts.
I haven't really given much thought to the thought that I might miss or how it may affect my race to the world rankings since we play for fewer points.  Obviously my focus right now is to just get my card.  It was a simple decision for me to be here for that.
As for your second part of the question, I'll definitely be heading home.  Hopefully it's not the case if I'm in 20th or whatever it might be.  I do know I'm going to get quite a few opportunities regardless of competing on the PGA TOUR next year.  I just want it to be more than 12 events because that's what I had this year, and I put a lot of pressure on myself in trying to get my card in those limited starts.  So this whole effort is to give myself more opportunities, and if it happens these next few weeks, then fantastic, otherwise I'll be back.
Q.  I wonder if you would give us a sense of your road to here.  I know you started and your father was in the military.  But what were those first practice facilities and courses you grew up on like?  I think it was a military base you were playing on.  What was that like?  Did you see as you were starting professional golf in your future or was it just something to do as recreation?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  Well, it was pretty much recreational.  As a kid, and when I say kid, when I was between the ages of 8 and 12, it was just going and having a hit in the afternoon after I came back from school and just spending some time with my dad initially.  Then obviously I played my first junior event at 12, and first time I played on an old preferred lie golf course.  So it was a big step up from everything that I identified as a golf course, and that's when I started enjoying playing competitive golf.
As for playing professionally it I didn't really think about it.  My goal was always to play for India as a junior and then after as an amateur.  I think the progression happened naturally as I got better.  I think my initial blueprint was to turn professional after I finished college, but I found myself in a position where I was playing well enough to compete.  So I actually turned professional midway through my final year of graduation, and then I took two months off and gave my exams.  Got my bachelors, and then I continued to play professional golf after that.
For me, it was more like something that happened instead of something that was planned, which happens quite a lot nowadays.
Q.  When you say no-preferred lie golf courses was it hardly a good lie so you had to place your ball so you could get some grass under it?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  No, you get both types.  If my dad was posted in the Western part of India where we have deserts, then it would have been no grass and putting it on a mat.  But most of my golf as a junior was played where my father was posted in the Eastern part which is very tropical.  So with the kind of rain and weather we had, it was almost always that you're going to tee it up on the fairway and probably not going to find your ball in the rough, because we still get a lot of rain.
So, yeah.  I grew up enjoying my golf, playing on whatever conditions I got.  Then it moved to enjoying competitive golf and not just playing golf, and now it's a bit of both, I guess.
Q.  I was wondering, you talked about knowing that you want to play the PGA TOUR and that's why you're going through these finals.  Is that something you always had thought throughout your life growing up as an a spiring golfer was you wanted to play on the PGA TOUR or was there a certain moment or time when you realized you wanted to try to play full-time in America?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  Honestly, I didn't really think of realistically wanting to be here and playing here until 18 to 24 months back.  I wasn't sure if I was good enough, frankly speaking.  Then I think about two years back when I really started to improve as a professional, started thinking on the lines that maybe if I can keep getting better then I can one day go out and play on the PGA TOUR.
When I think it was about a year, year-and-a-half back last year when I met Arjun Atwal and Danny Lee and Danny Chopra who have obviously been winners on the PGA TOUR in the past.  Arjun is Indian, Danny has grown up in India and they're dear friends.  They gave me a lot of advice and lot of encouragement to actually aspire to be here.
So I think it's something that has happened over different stages in my professional career, and I find myself now in a position where this is where I really, really want to be.  Yeah, I've always been the kind of person to commit to a direction, and my direction is to be here.
Q.  When did you learn about the web.com Tour finals?  Was that in the last few weeks that you added it to your schedule or was it something that you had in the back of your mind throughout the year?
ANIRBAN LAHIRI:  No, it's obviously not something I had planned on.  I didn't want to be here, honestly.  Yeah, the goal was to try to get my status in my limited starts that I had this year.  Unfortunately I didn't play my best golf for the major part of the time that I spent in America.  So I think coming into the PGA Championship it was my last start that I was allowed on the PGA TOUR, so I knew I needed to finish with a tie for third or something like that to get my card.
So I just went out and I just played freely and I tried to do my best.  Thereafter when I kind of wound down after the event we did all the math, and it was apparent that I would have to come to the Web.com finals to get my card is when we decided to do this is when I decided to come out and play these events.
So, yeah, it's strange because up until August I didn't know what I'm doing in September.  Yeah, it's been a crazy scheduling year for me.