Lahiri credits Zimbabwean golf icon Price for success

Sentosa (Singapore), Oct 2 (IANS) Set to become the first Indian golfer to compete at the Presidents Cup next week, Anirban Lahiri on Friday said his meeting with Zimbabwean great Nick Price “inspired” him to enter the top-50 in the world rankings and make his way into the International Team.

World No.39 Lahiri was in Fiji in August 2014 at an event in which Price also featured. During a practice day, 58-year-old three-time Major winner Price walked up to speak to Lahiri.

“Nick Price … you know, he’s just an amazing guy. 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,” current Asian Tour number one Lahiri said in a release.

“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,” the 28-year-old added.

“And 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’s Order of Merit.

The Bengaluru-based golfer 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 in Price’s 12-man team who will face the United States at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea next week.

When he is introduced by Price as one of the International Team members in the opening ceremony at the Presidents Cup, Lahiri will proudly sit on the same stage as many of the world’s elite including current world No.1 Jordan Spieth and world No.2 Jason Day.

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 memorable come-from-behind draw with Europe, who had led 5-0 after day one.

He also defeated a higher-ranked Ryan Palmer in his debut at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play earlier this year before losing narrowly on the 19th hole to Justin Rose and 1-up to Marc Leishman, who is also in the International Team.

“The stage is probably a little higher in terms of the profile of the event (Presidents Cup), in terms of the history and everything else that goes with it,” said Lahiri, who is a seven-time winner on the Asian Tour.

“The EurAsia Cup is a fairly new event but it’s done wonders for guys like me who’ve never played that kind of a format. At the end of the day as a player, if you don’t overwhelm yourself or you make it any different than actually playing in the EurAsia Cup or any matchplay event for that matter, it shouldn’t really matter who you’re playing.

“And I personally feel that I’m at a place where I don’t really care who I play. All i want to do is make sure that I get a point for the internationals. That’s all I care.”

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