Orlando, Florida, March 4: Anirban Lahiri still waiting for his first Top-10 finish after 11 stars this season, will tee up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in familiar environment at Orlando, Florida.
It has been Lahiri’s longest stretch without a Top-10 at the start of the wrap-around season since he first got onto the PGA Tour through the Korn Ferry Final series in late 2015.
Lahiri, who was ranked as high 33rdin the world in March 2015, has since slipped to 480th, the lowest in almost a decade since November 2009. He will be hoping to turn that around.
The Palmer Invitational has also been on Lahiri’s schedule for last three seasons, though the results have not been very pleasant. He missed the cut in 2017, but made the cut with finishes of T-76 and T-69 in 2018 and 2019 at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando.
The field will be playing for a $9.3 million purse, with 31 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking among the top contenders.
Yet, Sungjae Im’s breakthrough on the PGA TOUR last week will have given him a push to give it a go this week, as tees up in some world-class company, headlined by Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and Patrick Reed.
The Palmer Invitational, which is the second event of the Florida swing, will have 120 players with Francesco Molinari as the defending champion. He will be looking to regain some of the form that has left him since the 2019 Masters.
With Im’s success at the Honda Classic last week, a lot of focus will be on the Asian brigade at the Palmer Invitational.
Im, 21, secured an impressive win at The Honda Classic over the weekend to reinforce his stature as one of the game’s rising stars where his resume includes being the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year and 2019 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year.
The Korean also enjoyed a memorable Presidents Cup debut by delivering 3.5 points for the International Team, including a 4 & 3 win over U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland in the Singles last December.
Compatriot Byeong Hun An is another one in the strong Asian contingent this week. An, who like Im made his debut in the Presidents Cup, is pushing hard to secure his first win on the PGA TOUR after finishing T4, three behind Im, at The Honda Classic. An has had good weeks at Bay Hill, which is near his home in Orlando. He finished T10 in last year’s tournament and T14 in 2018.
There will be some focus also be on Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond who will make his first appearance at Bay Hill, a venue where compatriot Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished T6 twice in 2015 and 2016. Kiradech is not in this week’s field.
China’s Xinjun Zhang plans to make a big impression in his debut appearance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. With top-10s at the Safeway Open and Houston Open this season, the 32-year-old is seeking to improve on his 58th position on the FedExCup points list after missing the cut last weekend.
Other Asians in the field include Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Korea’s Sung Kang, all winners already on the PGA TOUR.
Im is currently second on the FedExCup points list behind leader Justin Thomas. Last year Im finished T3 in his first appearance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I’m very excited to play in these tournaments,” said Jazz, who finished T53 in the WGC-Mexico Championship two weeks ago. “It’ll be my first time in many of these events. I’ve always watched them on TV and playing against these players, I just love it. I don’t think there’s any explanation to that. Tournaments like THE PLAYERS, Arnold Palmer, WGCs, you’re playing the best in the world and you put yourself in there. I’m keen to see how different I am to the best in the world,” said Jazz, who is in this week’s field by virtue of being in the world’s top-50.