Indian star Anirban Lahiri has received a sponsor’s invitation to compete in the Shell Houston Open which is a boost to his Masters Tournament preparation next month.
The current Asian Tour number one, who sensationally claimed two tournament victories during three-week span in Malaysia and India in February, hopes to make full use of the opportunity to tee up at the Golf Club of Houston in Texas from April 2 to 5.
Organisers traditionally set up the course in Houston to resemble conditions at Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, and Lahiri intends to grasp as much as he can in Houston before heading to the year’s opening Major in the following week.
“Thanks to Shell, I’m feeling really happy that I will get a week to acclimatise and prepare for Augusta National,” said the world number 34.
“I understand that it’s a great golf course and a similar set-up in Houston. It will be a great opportunity to learn.”
Lahiri will become only the third Indian golfer to feature in the Masters Tournament, following in the footsteps of Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal.
Singh, a double Asian Tour number one, played at Augusta National on three occasions, with a best result of tied 25th achieved in 2008. Atwal, the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour, also played in the Masters in 2011 but missed the halfway cut.
Lahiri said Singh, Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa, the first Indian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2002, must be credited for inspiring the new generation of golfers, like himself, to emerge from the sub-continent.
And he now hopes that his recent success will spur other young golfers back home.
“They have always been inspirational to us,” said Lahiri, referring to India’s ‘Big Three’.
“I would never put myself ahead of them. But you know, to put it in the words that Arjun put it to me five months back, he said, ‘you know, we have done all these things that everyone looks up to. You have the opportunity to do that at 27, 28. We did it at 35, 36. So you’ve got that much more time to out-do us and out-do yourself.’
“And I think that is probably the one thing that I have to take to heart, and I have to believe that, because I have that time. I’m getting the exposure, I’m getting the opportunities at a much younger age than they did and for me that is the greatest gift, time. That’s something that they didn’t have as much of as maybe I do.
“So how I utilize that, how I capitalize on that opportunity, is critical for me personally in my career but also for someone to have that would be is great for golf in India, as well. If I can make use of that and if I really put my head down and focus and concentrate on what I really need to do, which is to just play golf and keep improving, I think that will have that ripple effect on the growth and setting the bar higher. If I can continue to go in the same direction and keep doing what I’ve been doing and improve, I think that will happen.”