Augusta, United States: Indian Anirban Lahiri will live up to a childhood dream when he tees up at the Masters Tournament on Thursday, hoping it will mark another step towards his ultimate aim of becoming a Major champion.
The current Asian Tour number one will become only the third Indian golfer after Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal to tee up at fabled Augusta National Golf Club and Lahiri knows the significance of his debut appearance.
“I’m very excited obviously as it’s something every player wants to do. You want to compete, contend and eventually win. These are things that dreams are made of. It’s going to be a very special thing when I tee up at Augusta National,” said Lahiri.
“Growing up, you want to play in all the Majors but the Masters and The Open are the two that are of special significance – one due to its history and the other because of its exclusivity and mysticism.
“The Open is a true Open and anybody can qualify. The Masters is the other end of the spectrum where you have to be the best of the best with its steeped criteria to have the opportunity to play. These are the two Majors that have great significance and I’m glad that when I tee up in Augusta, I would have accomplished the first part of my dream which is to play. The second part, hopefully, is to do well and win a Major in my career.”
The 27-year-old has enjoyed a spectacular past 12 months on the Asian Tour, winning four tournaments during a golden period that included victories in co-sanctioned events with Europe in Malaysia and India in February.
After cracking the world’s top-50 which earned him a place at the Masters Tournament, Lahiri, who is currently ranked 34th, knows that an eye-catching week will leave a long-lasting effect in his native India and across Asia.
“It’s important that I play well,” said Lahiri, who was recently tipped by South African great Ernie Els as being a potential Major winner.
“If I can put up a special performance, that would make a huge difference. Playing in the Masters is quite difficult – you’ve got be top-50 in the world or win a PGA Tour event, or be in the top-10 of the Race to Dubai. To have someone qualify while playing primarily on the Asian Tour and co-sanctioned event, it’s a big boost for someone who has the same dreams that I have.
“If I can do well, it will be a big motivating factor. Even I didn’t think it was possible … but it is possible. It was very much like when Arjun went to America and won. Nobody thought it was possible and now people will change their belief system.
“My goal is to try my best and do something like that … make an impact not just in India but in Asia as well. That’s what inspires people back home.”
Lahiri will look back at his maiden appearance at The Open in 2012, where he finished tied 31st, as a motivating factor in his Masters quest. He also sought advice from Atwal, Singh and Daniel Chopra about the intricacies of playing at Augusta National.
“It’s easy to get a little overwhelmed and overawed with the history and tradition of the event. It’s a place of reverence, it’s like a holy place and you can get lost in the temple,” he said.
“For me, the three days before the first round will be very important. I will spend as much time and absorb everything and get used to it. The faster I get comfortable, the more comfortable I will feel. I’ll spend as much time there on Monday and Tuesday and get over the big moment of being there. My first tee shot will be a huge one. After that first few shots, how I can focus will be very important.”
Lahiri will pay particular attention to mapping out a good game plan, especially in dealing with the treacherous greens. “Everybody that I’ve spoken to says it is better to have an uphill 25-footer than five-footer from the wrong side,” he said.
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