star Anirban Lahiri is aiming to successfully defend his Venetian Macao Open title starting on Thursday, saying he has overcome his Presidents Cup heartbreak.

Lahiri, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, declared he is ready to launch a final push to become the region’s new number one beginning with this week’s US$1 million event which has attracted a stellar field.

It includes four-time Major winner Ernie Els, 2013 champion Scott Hend, Chinese stars Liang Wen-chong and Zhang Lian-wei and eight of the current top-10 players from the Merit list.

“It was a disappointing result but it was certainly not a disappointment,” reflected Lahiri, who missed a three-foot birdie putt for a half point that could have altered the end result of the Presidents Cup.

“What we witnessed last week is exactly the nature of the sport. What I experienced was what Scott (Hend) had experienced here last year. We both hit good putts and it didn’ go in. Sometimes you’re on the receiving end. You take it in your stride and take whatever you need to do to get better.”

Lahiri revealed he slept easily on Sunday night knowing he had stuck to his process and routine before hitting his putt. The United States beat the Internationals by one point.

“Obviously, you reflect on it. I thought to myself ‘what did I do wrong’ and I couldn’t come up with an answer. If you can’t come up with an answer, you can sleep peacefully and I did,” said the world number 39.

“I followed my process, I was focused and I tried my heart out. I hit the shots exactly how I saw it, even with the last putt. There’s nothing I regret but I feel bad about it as the team had worked hard.”

After winning the Venetian Macao Open some 12 months ago, the 28-year-old Lahiri went on to win in Malaysia and India in February and has since enjoyed a magical season which included a top-five finish at the PGA Championship and earning a card on the PGA Tour.

His goal now is to wrap up the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit title and join compatriots Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa as the only Indian golfers to have won the Merit list.

“It all started from here last year. It’s nice to go a full circle. I know what it feels like to defend. Now, I feel the game is coming to where it should be. I enjoy playing on this course and in the last few years, I’ve managed to find a really good rhythm here. I played nine holes this morning, and I really felt comfortable. I didn’t feel like I was coming back after a year. It felt like just yesterday, which is a good sign for me,” said Lahiri.

“This is the beginning of an important stretch, not just prize money but also for a lot of world rankings. There are guys who can make a serious move up on the Order of Merit. This is when you want to get on a roll and start playing your best hopefully.”

A refreshed Els is hoping to make it third time luck at the Venetian Macao Open. He finished third in his first visit here two years but is eyeing a victory to salvage a disappointing season.

“I didn’t get into Presidents Cup, no top-10s, no nothing,” said Els, who returned to competitive golf in Scotland two weeks ago after taking a month-long break. “It’s been a tough year on the golf course and I think my focus wasn’t there totally.

“I feel good, feel really fresh and I look forward to get something going. I took a long break and just chilled. I believe good things will happen, just want to get the freshness and the hunger back,” added the South African, who is an Honorary Member and International Ambassador of the Asian Tour.

Big-hitting Hend, who won in Macao two years ago, was delighted to return to Asia after spending much of his time in Europe this season.

“Good to be eating the spicy food again instead of the usual pasta and pizzas,” said Hend. “The course is always fantastic. It’s been very good to me. Last year was amazing winning in Hong Kong and then Anirban beat me here at the post and he’s gone on the up and up from there on.”

Zhang, the only two-time winner of the tournament, said it is fantastic the Venetian Macao Open is now offering a record prize fund of US$1 million. “The players are grateful as this gives us the incentive to play. I’m 50 years old now and I’m still looking forward to compete as I love the game of golf,” said Zhang.

Since its inauguration in 1998, many other world class golfers have graced the fairways of Macau Golf & Country Club, including Lee Westwood (winner in 1999), Colin Montgomerie (winner in 2003), Nick Faldo, Padraig Harrington, Fred Couples, Ian Woosnam and Mark O’Meara .

The Venetian Macao Open is organised by the Macao Sport Development Board of Macao SAR Government and the Golf Association of Macau. Sanctioned by the latter and the Asian Tour, The Venetian® Macao is supporting the iconic event as title sponsor for the fourth successive year.

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