Race for the Claret Jug: Lahiri seals Open spot
Images of Tiger Woods' mastery of the Old Course still stand out in his mind. Anirban Lahiri was yet to graduate to the professional ranks when The Open Championship started to tug at the heartstrings.
By opting to use his full power sparingly and displaying an uncanny knack of staying away from the bunkers, which dot the historic venue, Woods, in 2005, not only repeated his feat in the Millennium Open, his immaculate iron control left an indelible mark on the 18-year-old in faraway India.
From a wide-eyed amateur, Lahiri has blossomed into a professional of promise, yet he stays in awe. "One tends to associate with it and will remain a special event," he says. A trip to St Andrews will have to wait but by earning the right to turn out at The Open, the 24-year-old hopes to be a part of the folklore at the Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in July.
Almost a month of golf, including the nerve-wracking moments before he sealed it at last week's SAIL-SBI Open, meant it was a weary frame that arrived at Bangkok's Amata Spring Country Club for the International Final Qualifying (IFQ) - Asia. Up for grabs were four spots and aware that a "no-holds-barred contest" was in the offing, Lahiri knew he had to strategise.The form was going for him, and "making the most of it", Lahiri ended Thursday as joint leader. The 68 was a task well begun, but his previous two appearances at the IFQ lurked. With history against him, it was the mind that held the key.
The non-stop action had started to tell on the body and Friday's slow start left Lahiri trailing by three shots when he made the turn. The benefits of renewing the association with vipassana (meditation) have been with him since the start of the year, but it was now that the need to place mind over the body was felt the most.
Shutting out all that could derail him, Lahiri went all out.
"Selective aggression" and "good decisions" on the back nine was his way of replying to Prayad Marksaeng's 64, and the short but prolific run left him three clear of the field after the 15th.
A dropped shot and two-hour weather disruption did irritate towards the end, but Lahiri's ability to find the fairways ensured the tale meandered to its logical conclusion.