India’s Anirban Lahiri is putting the champagne on ice as he took a big step towards wrapping up the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit crown following the conclusion of the US$7 million CIMB Classic on Sunday.
With his closest rivals Scott Hend and Andrew Dodt, both from Australia, finishing below him at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, the 28-year-old Lahiri extended his lead over second-ranked Hend to US$647,453 following his tied 21st finish here.
“We’ll see. Funnier things have happened,” said Lahiri, who earned another US$78,400 following a closing two-under-par 70 for a 14-under-par 274 aggregate.
“I’m obviously really thrilled with the way I’ve played all year. I played pretty consistently. So, hopefully, if things do go my way, it will be fantastic to win the Order of Merit. It’s been something that I wanted to do, it’s been something that has eluded me.
“When the time comes, if that does happen, it will be a very special moment for me,” added Lahiri, who has amassed US$1.13 million on the Asian Tour this season.
Hend conceded Lahiri has done enough to become the new Asian Tour number one. With six events remaining, either Hend or Dodt would need to win almost all remaining tournaments to have a chance of surpassing the Indian star.
The 42-year-old Hend said he needed a top-two finish in Malaysia to keep the Merit battle alive but settled for a share of 27th position after closing with a 67. Dodt finished tied 56th to remain third on the Merit list
“It’s over … finished,” said Hend. “I pretty much had to win this week, otherwise Anirban is going to have it wrapped up. He’s played fantastic golf obviously at the start of the year and deserves it.”
Hend, winner of the Venetian Macao Open two weeks ago, lamented he couldn’t hole enough putts to make a title run at the CIMB Classic. “I couldn’t really get anything going coming in today. It is what it is,” he said.
“Just didn’t hole enough putts. You got to hole a lot of putts against these guys or you’re going to be behind the eight-ball.”
Lahiri, who played in his first Presidents Cup three weeks ago and is now ranked 37th in the world, was disappointed he didn’t put a better showing at the West course where he had won the Malaysian Open earlier this season.
“I didn’t get any momentum,” said Lahiri. “Having said that, it’s not a bad week. It’s a decent week, but definitely not what I had hoped for. I didn’t hit my irons very good this week. I think that has been my strength over the last few weeks but this week my iron play wasn’t very good.”