After Adelaide high, Anirban Lahiri set for LIV Singapore golf
Lahiri will return to the Sentosa Golf Club course where he was in awe as he rubbed shoulders as a 20-year-old with stars like Phil Mickelson in 2008.
Anirban Lahiri’s first tryst with fame came in his first full season as a professional at the course where he is playing this week’s LIV Golf Singapore tournament – Sentosa Golf Club.
It was during the 2008 Barclays Scottish Open. The 20-year-old Lahiri had a country exemption on the Asian Tour. He became the first alternate on Monday evening and rushed to Singapore from Bengaluru on Tuesday. Wednesday was ProAm, and he could not get any practice on what is considered one of the toughest golf courses in Asia.
“It was on Wednesday night that I got a message from the Asian Tour that Ian Poulter had withdrawn and I was in. Then came the bombshell…I was to play with (then world No 2) Phil Mickelson and the Asia No 1 Thaworn Wiratchant,” reminisces Lahiri.
Almost 15 years on, Lahiri, Mickelson and Poulter are all part of LIV Golf and will be contending at a gathering of golf superstars in Singapore.
Lahiri missed the cut that week “by miles”, but watching Mickelson from close quarters was an amazing learning experience that helped shape the player he’d later become.
“It was like taking me out of the kid’s pool and throwing me into the Mariana Trench,” said the highest-ranked Indian, who comes into the event on the back of runner-up finishes in back-to-back weeks, on the Asian Tour event in Vietnam and LIV Golf Adelaide.
“I was so scared and so intimidated and so overawed. Just to be able to play the Singapore Open those days (with $5 million purse) was a huge deal for us…and then to get paired with Phil! But I learned so much. The difference in our games was so wide and large and deep that it was a wake-up call for me.
“I was joking with my caddie yesterday that I only had two shots back then – my straight shot was a six-yard draw (slight right-to-left shape golf shot) and my draws were 25-yard hooks (vicious right-to-left shots). That’s all I had.
“I realised I had so far to go to even come close to Phil’s versatility, his ball control, his ability with the short game. I still remember him hitting a four-iron straight up and stopping it to within six-seven feet on a super-firm green.
“It was a huge learning experience. So many moons later, getting to knowing them, playing with them, competing against them and beating them sometimes, it’s been a fantastic journey.”
That tournament was eventually won by Jeev Milkha Singh, who would put together one of the most heroic performances of Indian golf three weeks later when he won the season-ending championship in the Japan Golf Tour the same week he and wife had a still-birth at term.
Lahiri lost his mother-in-law to cancer on Sunday, when he was in the middle of his final-round 65 in Adelaide.
Asked if Singh would be an inspiration this week, Lahiri said: “Not really. I would not like to relate my circumstances to his. Let me put it this way, Jeev sir has always inspired me, as has Arjun (Atwal), Daniel (Chopra) and Jyoti (Randhawa). I can sit and watch and be impressed with the way Jyoti hits the golf ball, even when he is just having fun with his son Jorawar.
“So, inspiration from Jeev and others is always there. I would not have been here if not for what they did when I was growing up.
“As prolific as Jeev has been, and how he overcame so many challenges – on the personal front, access to golf courses and Tours, equipment, etc., I grew up in the late 90s in India playing golf, so I know how difficult everything was back then, and they did it before my time, which was way harder.
“I’m always motivated to do better and be a better version of myself. I still enjoy talking to them and chatting with them and picking their brains. They always have great advice. And I’m lucky to call all of them my friends now.”
LIV Golf Singapore starts Friday. The shotgun start is scheduled for 10:15am local time (11:45 IST).
- Anirban Lahiri