Indian star Anirban Lahiri will be aiming to motor his way to victory at the US$1.75 million Hero Indian Open starting on Thursday as he bids to maintain his stellar record in the prestigious tournament.
The 29-year-old Lahiri, the Asian Tour number one two years ago, has finished no lower that tied 15th in his last six appearances in his national Open, winning the 2015 edition and settling for runner-up place in 2014 and last year.
Lifting an eighth Asian Tour title at the challenging DLF Golf and Country Club’s Gary Player course would also help Lahiri, ranked 73rd in the world, tick off several immediate goals, which include qualifying for the WGC-Dell Match Play in two weeks’ time and enhancing his hopes of getting back to the year’s opening Major, the Masters Tournament next month.
Reigning Asian Tour number one Scott Hend of Australia, ranked four rungs higher than Lahiri, is also in a similar position and needs to finish in tied sixth place with another golfer or better to qualify for the WGC event in the United States.
The long-hitting Hend needed three flights to travel from Mexico to Delhi as he chases a 10th Asian Tour title, world ranking points and potentially a maiden appearance at the Masters Tournament as well.
Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat is excited to make a return to the Hero Indian Open which he last featured in 2011. It was also the same year when the burly Thai broke through on the Asian Tour by winning the SAIL Open in India, which provided the launch pad to his career.
The Hero Indian Open is jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the third straight year and will also be headlined by world number 26 Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain and title holder S.S.P. Chawrasia.
Did you know?
- Lahiri has finished second, first, tied second, tied fifth, tied 15th and tied third in his last six appearances at the Hero Indian Open.
- Currently ranked 73rd in the world, he needs to finish alone in second place or better to qualify for the WGC-Dell Match Play.
- Lahiri has finished tied 11th, tied 64th, tied seventh and tied 19th in his last four tournament starts in Dubai, Malaysia and America (two events).
- Lahiri has won seven times on the Asian Tour, including four on home soil. His last victory was the 2015 Hero Indian Open, the year he also became the Asian Tour number one.
- Scott Hend, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, is making his second Asian Tour start this season. He finished tied 29th at the Maybank Championship in February.
- Hend’s best finish in five previous appearances at the Hero Indian Open was equal 12th in Bengaluru in 2012. He finished tied 58th last season.
- Hend is aiming to improve on his current 69th position on the Official World Golf Ranking to qualify as the top-64 golfers for the WGC-Dell Match Play, which qualifying cut-off is this week. He needs to be amongst two players in T6 or better to break the top-64. A win could move him up to around the top-50 mark to qualify for the Masters Tournament.
- Hend is the most successful international golfer on the Asian Tour with nine victories. He became the first Australian to win the Order of Merit last season.
- Kiradech Aphibarnrat claimed the first of his two Asian Tour titles in India at the 2011 SAIL Open. His last Hero Indian Open appearance was also during the same year where he finished tied 29th. He made his debut in the Hero Indian Open in 2010 and finished tied 19th.
- Kiradech won the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2013. He has also won twice on the European Tour, the 2015 Shenzhen International and 2015 Paul Lawrie Matchplay.
Anirban Lahiri (Ind)
It’s going to be a challenge for sure. I would say there are two factors that would be interesting to see. One is how they set up the golf course. If you really wanted to be really aggressive you could make the golf course really, really hard. Pace of play is going to be a concern and if it gets windy it’s going to be extremely hard. I think they are going to set it up for scoring, which is a good thing.
I’ve had a couple of weekends where I feel like I’ve let it go a bit. Most of it has come on and around the greens. That’s the one area that I’m working hard on. We’ve identified a couple of things that may have caused that to happen and are in the process of fixing. I feel like I’m making progress. It also comes down to your confidence. You make a couple of six footers and a 15 footer and suddenly you’re putting great. I feel like my game is in good shape. Some of those top 25s were about as bad as I could have finished, given the way I played. It’s a good sign for me, but it would be good to put all 72 holes together and come in strong on the Sunday.
My primary target is obviously Augusta (Masters Tournament), but yes I would love to get to the Match Play. I played Austin Country Club last year and I really liked the golf course. But more than anything else I like how I’m playing right now. You want to play all of these events when you are playing well. I think I have to finish first or second this week.
Scott Hend (Aus)
I think the course is much better than what it used to be. It’s very challenging, it’s a very good course. I think first and foremost, you need to know where you’re going to hit your tee shots. I think the greens are quite simple after what I played last week (in Mexico). You just have to hit it in the right sectors, it’s good.
My form is very sketchy. I’m not playing really well, I’m still searching for a driver which is a big thing for me. You never know, I’m here this week with a goal. I need to make up another four or five spots to get into the WGC Match Play in a couple of weeks’ time. That’s pretty much the reason why I’m here.
First things first, if I can get into the Match Play, then I might get a chance to get into the Masters. Last week, I sort of ruined it for myself as I didn’t handle the course very well. There were a lot of world ranking points up for grabs there (WGC-Mexico Championship) and I managed to get zero. If I can have a decent finish here and get into the match play, then possibly I can force my way into the Masters.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha)
The course is fantastic, it’s in good shape. The first time I walked into the club, I can’t imagine this course is in Asia, or in India. It should be a course in Europe. It’s in such good condition from tee to green, some of the greens can be too tough but it’s going to provide the challenge this week. On this course, you have to stay out of trouble. It’s narrow and the greens are tough. You have miss the right side if you hit a bad shot. You can easily three putt for sure. You can’t get up and down on some of the greens. Just get into the right position and stay away from the bunker. Just hit the greens.
When I committed to the event, I just felt excited. Back in 2011, I haven’t come back for the past six years. My first win on Tour was in this country and I always look forward to coming back here to see my friends and golf fans.
The golf swing takes time (with new coach Pete Cowen). I think it’s getting better and better as you’ve seen in the first few results this year. I’m striking the ball and hitting green in regulation is better than last year. It takes time to get used to the swing although it’s a slight change. To get it consistent takes time. I’ve been playing the same for nearly two years, I’ve been between 40 and 70 in the world for a while and I wanted to see something new. I’m looking at top-30. There’s nothing to lose. I believe Pete is one of the best coaches in the world. I want to learn something new and improve.