Anirban Lahiri may not have been a part of the “greatest rivalry in Asian golf” this time, but he was at hand to witness SSP Chawrasia, the man he was supposed to challenge this week, make the Indian Open his own the second time running.
Not a part of the jamboree on the 18th after the putt for bogey, Lahiri stood silently by the edge, waiting for the champion to make his way up at the DLF Golf & Country Club. They met briefly -- the pat conveyed the camaraderie -- before Chawrasia was swept away by the group that had drenched him on the green during the customary celebrations.
Even though not a part of the leader group on Sunday -- he finished tied fifth after a late rally -- Lahiri’s gesture was a throwback to last year at the Delhi Golf Club. Chawrasia’s accurate approach shot all but sealed the playoff, and Anirban, even with the feeling of loss, made it a point to applaud the effort.
From that Sunday to this, Chawrasia stays appreciative, even lauding his competitor and friend. Every outing is an experience for him, and apart from the lesson in humility, there were some learnt on the course as well.
The deadpan expression as he worked towards the seven-shot victory was a camouflage. “Every single shot, every minute I was nervous,” he said.
Perhaps that played a part in the mistakes, two of the day’s three bogeys coming back-to-back on the sixth and seventh. The lead cut to three, “it became border-line and I told myself I needed to make some birdies”.
He did that and the gap got bigger, but tentativeness did not leave him. Such was the state that after a point he told himself “enough of birdies, just play for par”.
A point often held against Chawrasia is his struggle on courses in Europe. After Sunday and his fourth European Tour title, he insisted that would change.
“I’ve come out victorious at the toughest course of my career. After this, I’m confident of faring better in Europe.”
If this was the biggest lesson of this week, another one played a vital part as well. Like last year, Chawrasia had sought out Jeev Milkha Singh before the start. There wasn’t much to say, after all Chawrasia has played big-ticket golf for over a decade.
“Play your game and shut everything out.” The advice was in sync with Chawrasia’s belief, but coming from Jeev, it was taken more seriously.