Seoul, Korea: All it took to fire up Anirban Lahiri’s desire to qualify for the Presidents Cup was a chance meeting with International Team Captain Nick Price just over a year ago.
Lahiri, who will become the first Indian to compete at the Presidents Cup in Korea this week, was in Fiji last August at an event in which Price also featured. During a practice day, the Zimbabwean walked up to speak to him.
“Nick Price … you know, he’s just an amazing guy,” said Lahiri, the current Asian Tour number one. “I met him last year and I didn’t even know there’s a list to get on the Presidents Cup. I didn’t know what the format was, I didn’t know what the criteria was … nothing.
“And then I went to play a tournament in Fiji and he was there and he came up to me. He didn’t need to introduce himself obviously, but he said that he was looking at how I’ve been playing and he likes what he sees and he would love to have me continue to make progress.
“At that point of time, I had only won in Indonesia (CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters). This was before I won in Macau (Venetian Macau Open) last year. So I hadn’t really done much. But for someone like Nick Price to come up to me and say that … it really inspired me.
“My wife (Ipsa) was there in Fiji and said: “You know, you’ve got to do this and I’ve got to find a way to get on that team.”
Following that encounter, Lahiri’s game subsequently caught fire as he won in Macau a couple of months later before going on to finish second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit. He then started the 2015 season with a bang, winning the Maybank Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open, both co-sanctioned events with the European Tour, in the space of three weeks in February to break into the world’s top-50.
A top-five outing at the PGA Championship in August, where he became India’s best performer in a Major, all but sealed his place Price’s 12-man team who will face the United States at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon.
When he is introduced by Price as one of the International Team members at the opening ceremony, Lahiri will proudly sit on the same stage as many of the world’s elite including current world number one Jordan Spieth and second-ranked Jason Day.
The world number 39 believes he has done enough to earn his place at the top table following a year which saw him feature in all four Majors and the three World Golf Championships. But the Indian knows the work with coach Vijay Divecha will carry on until he achieves his ultimate goal of winning a Major championship.
“Coming in joint fifth at the PGA Championship, it’s been fantastic. There was so much that I took away from the week. The confidence and self-belief that I gained and earning the respect of the best players in the world … that’s not easily done,” said Lahiri, a seven-time winner on the Asian Tour.
“When you can do that, you want to snowball it and play better consistently. That’s going to be my next effort. You have to work on the game and maintain the high level of play. You’re not scared.”
Lahiri has proven to be a good match play competitor. At the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Malaysia last year, he earned two points out of three matches in Asia’s come-from-behind draw with Europe.
The Indian holed a pressure-packed six-foot putt at the last hole in the second day foursomes to ensure Asia the final point of the day which maintained the team’s momentum going into the final-day singles session in which Lahiri defeated Frenchman Victor Dubuisson.
He also defeated Ryan Palmer in his debut at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play this year before losing on the 19th hole to Justin Rose and 1-down to Marc Leishman, who is also in the International Team.