After series of disappointments, Lahiri gets good news with Olympic qualification

New Delhi, June 22: Anirban Lahiri was over the moon as he received the news of getting into the final field of 60 for the Tokyo Olympic Games. He got the information news just as the deadline ran out this morning.

It was just what he needed to boost his morale after months of disappointments including being stranded in India last year due to travel restriction and lockdowns; then patchy form at time and finally the big blow in the form of Covid just as he was finding form.

While Lahiri will be the lone male golfer in the men’s field, Aditi Ashok should also comfortably make the grade as she currently 44th on the list. The deadline for women’s final is June 29. It will be the second Olympics for both Lahiri and Aditi.

Lahiri said, “I’m feeling really blessed and fortunate right now. I was obviously not expecting it. I had no clue or information about what was going on with the withdrawals. So, I literally found out about a few minutes before I speak to you.  Like I said, because it was not expected. I’m just beginning to realise and plan for it as to what I’m going to do over the next month.”

In 2016, India had two men – Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia.

Udayan Mane, whose berth seemed secure if the Games had been held in time last in July last year, is now stranded as one of the first reserves depending on which player from which country pulls out. He needed some specific withdrawals, and it remains to be seen how he will be accommodated in case of some pull outs between now and the Games. Mane has not played a tournament since March this year.

After being out of the running and relinquishing his position as the top Indian, Lahiri seemed resigned to miss out on the honour of wearing the tricolour at Tokyo. Then he was hit by Covid last month and was forced to miss some events on the PGA Tour and fell further back on the world rankings.

Lahiri added, “It is always a great honour to represent India. So, I am extremely happy. But I have to start planning now, also with where I find myself on the PGA Tour (currently 118th).”

The top 125 players at the end of the season retain their full playing rights. After this week’s Travelers Championship, Lahiri potentially has five more events before the Olympics, but he will have to skip some because of travel and preparation. After the Olympics, Lahiri will have only two more starts to make the Top-125. So, it will be a tight squeeze for him.

Lahiri laughed and said, “Among the things I need to manage are my workload, my schedule with my events, the travel and my physical conditioning. So, there’s lots of things to look into to make sure that you know I can accomplish all my goals, not just my Olympic goals.

“I guess it’s just starts with me playing well this week and building some momentum. So, I’m just trying to stay in the present. I am very, very happy and the best way forward for me is to optimize my golf.”

Last year Lahiri was struck in India during the pandemic. He could not travel because of restrictions. This year it was patchy form and then Covid.

Lahiri’s form finally seemed to show up positively at the Palmetto Championships at Congaree, the week before the US Open. He finished T-25 finish and that helped him rise from 354th to 340th and that in turned helped him secure his spot, which at that time had looked tough. Even after the Palmetto Championship, Lahiri was 340th and needed a couple of withdrawals from certain countries to squeeze in. As the deadline passed on Tuesday morning, Lahiri found himself exactly on the 60th spot. He was duly informed by the International Golf Federation.

“The news could not have come at a better time,” signed off Lahiri, who will now be in perfect frame of mind as he tees up at Travelers’s Championship.

The extended three-year qualification process for the men’s golf competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was completed on Tuesday.

With his U.S. Open victory on Sunday, Jon Rahm of Spain became world number one and jumped Justin Thomas of the United States into the No. 1 position of the Olympic Rankings. Americans finished Nos. 2-5 with Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Bryson DeChambeau, respectively. The United States is the only country with more than two qualifiers for the 60-player field.

Some of the top Asian and Asia-Pacific names in the field include Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Rikuya Hoshino (Jpn), Sungjae Im (Kor), Si Woo Kim (Kor), Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Gunn Charoenkul (Tha), C.T. Pan (Tpe), Juvic Pagunsan (Phi), Gavin Green (Mas), Carl Yuan (Chn), Ashun Wu (Chn), Cameron Smith (Aus), Marc Leishman (Aus) and Ryan Fox (Nzl).

The top-15 world-ranked players are eligible for the Olympics, with a limit of four players from a given country. Beyond the top-15, players are eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15. The men’s competition in Tokyo will be held from July 29 to August 1, 2021.

The women’s rankings will be finalized after this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The 60-player women’s competition will be held at Kasumigaseki CC August 4-7.


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