Anirban Lahiri. Pic: File
Aug 12: After going through a whole range of emotions, Anirban Lahiri is finally going to tee off at a PGA tournament this week, when he plays at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“It’s been a long, long time,” says Lahiri. “I am hungry and all ready to go. I came to India for the Hero Indian Open and then had to stay back as the Covid outbreak started spreading all over.”
This week Lahiri and Atwal will play in the Wyndham Championships at the Sedgefield Country Club.
In the initial days it seemed that the break might not be too long but it stretched on for five months and more. Lahiri was not even able to go back to the US because of travel restrictions.
Now this week he is back in the US and all excited about playing his first event since early March.
“I’m feeling excited. It’s not something I’ve felt like in a long time,” Lahiri said. “It’s like going back to school after a summer vacation. It’s a good thing.”
Lahiri, who spent a lot of the time in India with his parents, later moved to Ahmedabad to be with his coach, Vijay Divecha and started working on his game. “Mentally, I decided that I was going to focus on the next 2020-21 season, instead of thinking about the ongoing one. I took it as an opportunity to work on my game and rebuild it,” he said.
“After all, how many times does anyone get a chance to work on the game and assess it with one’s coach and stay away from tournaments without needing to worry about the Tour card. This was one such chance,” added Lahiri, as the PGA Tour decided that all players would keep the status they had for the 2020 season. Lahiri had a proper status.
“I got to spend six weeks with Vijay which I haven’t done in like five or six years. It’s a big reset and I was able to work continuously with him,” said Lahiri, who has gone through a lean spell. “That was the reason I needed and wanted to work on my game. In the past few years I would get short periods of practice with Vijay and we would try fix the problems. They were just that – fixes. Now, I had a proper stretch of time, and I grabbed it.”
With a hearty laugh, h said, “I was telling someone, that basically (we) disassembled the engine and put everything back together.”
Lahiri and Divecha worked on just about everything. He added, “This time, we have rebuilt from scratch. It was like I was starting golf again – right from the basic, the grip, posture, the fundamentals. It was a re-set button. In a way it was like writing something new on a clean slate.”
This week Lahiri will have Arjun Atwal for company at the Wyndham Championship, which had great memories for every Indian golf player and fan. This is where Atwal won India’s first and only PGA Tour title.
Lahiri has played at the Donald Ross-designed Sedgefield Country Club, in the past. “It is tree-lined and you have to shape shots. There’s a good mix of lengthy holes and shortish holes. If you get hot, you can make lots of birdies and rise up the leaderboard.”
Lahiri, who did not watch much of golf during the last few months. “I would follow scores maybe once a day, not like looking at my phone every few minutes. I was focused on working on my game and I feel good about it. So, I am excited,” he adds.
The Wyndham Championship is the final event of the Regular Season. For Lahiri, who is way back in the FedExCup points list, it is more a question of testing his game and then getting ready for the new season which begins right after the Play-offs. Atwal, who had a few starts last few weeks, is 215th and Lahiri is 219th. So, getting into 125th is a long shot, unless Atwal or Lahiri can pull off something on Sunday. In golf, it is always possible. Ten years ago, Atwal came to Wyndham as a Monday qualifier and left on Sunday with a Trophy and a slice of history.