“Smile,” a shout rang out from the crowd as Anirban Lahiri approached the 18th green. Had the request come a while back, compliance would have been farthest on the mind. Blowing heavily and closing the eyes frequently, Lahiri had made his way to the 18th tee. The baggage accrued over the years at the Delhi Golf Club could derail him, and the challenge was to stay rooted in the present.
It took Prom Meesawat and an awry tee shot for the pressure to seep out. Shaking hands with the Thai after he conceded the playoff, Lahiri looked in the direction of the spectator, and the weather-beaten face broke into a grin.
“Never before have I smiled so much after such a bad round,” he exclaimed. Apart from the beam, there was no extravagant show of emotion, something that marked his emergence from the three-way playoff at the Panasonic Open here.
The mind did rewind to last year, but it was for reasons not concerning him. Watching Scott Barr blow away a one-shot lead with a triple bogey on the 17th, Lahiri was reminded of Mardan Mamat. “I asked myself, ‘is there a magnet here in the bushes for the leaders’?”
The race down to two men, Lahiri could have sealed it on the next. Lining up for a birdie from less than five feet, the player and his caddy got the line wrong again, and that summed up his day.
The shift to the belly putter has been for better fluency, but with the move not paying dividend, at least on Saturday, Lahiri fell back on the urge to hang in there. Much as he was looking ahead, the past could not be discounted. “I’ve was in a couple of situations on the domestic tour last year where I should have closed it off, but didn’t.”
The capitulation on the final day of the DLF Masters saw the “negative chain” being carried to the BILT Open, and it was to free himself of the shackles that he took refuge in meditation.
Two weeks after a vipassana course in 2007, Lahiri had pipped Gaganjeet Bhullar for his maiden amateur title. A month after renewing the vow to introspect more deeply, the SAIL-SBI Open is his.
Trophy in hand, barring the slight smile, there was no visible sign of emotion. “Then too (in 2007), I’d hardly smiled. Déjà vu?” he asked.