Presidents Cup International Team captain Nick Price believes India’s Anirban Lahiri, the current Asian Tour number one, will be an asset to his squad who will face the United States in Korea in October.
Price started following Lahiri’s rapid rise since the middle of last year when the Indian star made his way up the International Team rankings which is based from the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I had been keeping an eye on the World Ranking. Every Monday I sort of pop it up and see who is moving. I spoke to him (Lahiri) last year because he had moved up to about I think 15th or 16th on the international points list, so I knew he was playing well and I had seen his form,” said the Zimbabwean.
“So I chatted to him a little bit and then I just sent him an e-mail after he won in Malaysia, which was a pretty strong win, the way he played at the end. And then winning in Delhi the next week, I also watched that.”
With four wins on the Asian Tour in a span of 10 months which included victories at the Maybank Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open, both co-sanctioned with Europe last month, Lahiri has risen to 35th place on the world rankings and currently sits in fifth position on the International Team list for the Presidents Cup.
Price, who was speaking at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Doral where Lahiri is making his debut, reckons the Indian golfer’s ability to hole big putts was one of his greatest assets as proven in in recent times.
At the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters last year, the 27-year-old Indian holed an eagle from 25-feet on the 72nd hole to win by one stroke and also rolled in a 50-foot birdie at the 71st hole to win the Maybank Malaysian Open last month. He also chipped in for par on the 71st hole which kept him in the lead at the Hero Indian Open, which he won in a play-off.
Lahiri has shown he is also handy in match play. At the inaugural EurAsia Cup, which pitted Asia against Europe last March, Lahiri was a central figure in the team’s fightback to force a thrilling 10-10 draw, holing a crucial six-foot putt on the last hole to ensure a win with Siddikur Rahman in the second day’s fourball that gave Asia the momentum going into the final day singles, which he subsequently defeated Victor Dubuisson of France.
Price said: “I think he’s a great putter. I think he hits the ball- all these guys out here hit the ball really well. But looks like he can make a big putt on a big occasion. Certainly that’s what he’s shown us or what I’ve seen on TV over the last couple of months. But very calm, collected, and I think he’s going to be an asset to our team.
“I spoke to him yesterday; but back last year, he appeared on my radar, and I think he’s a very competent player, and I think he’s going to bring- he just needs to play decently the next two or three months and I think he’s going to be a lock on the team which is going to be great for us and for India. I think it’s going to be a certain ground breaking for him to be on the team.”
Lahiri took Price’s stamp of approval in his stride, although he has been lamenting about his putting in recent months. “Well, it’s funny that you say that, because up until a few months back, I thought that (putting) was one of the weak links in my game. But I think I’ve worked on the mental aspect of putting, and it’s kind of improving. I still don’t think I’m a fabulous putter. But a lot of people tell me that I can putt, so I think I should start believing them.”
Three-time Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee, ranked 38th in the world, is also in line to make the International Team where he currently lies in sixth place on the team ranking. If they qualify for the International Team, Lahiri and Thongchai will become the first Indian and Thai respectively to play in the biennial team competition.
The cut-off for qualifying is September 8.
The Presidents Cup will be played at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon from October 8-11.