Anirban Lahiri was the last man standing on the practice putting green at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass as darkness descended on Monday evening.
Ranked 101st in the Strokes Gained: Putting category, the Indian knows fully well his flat stick needs to start getting hot at this week’s THE PLAYERS Championship, the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament which begins on Thursday.
In three previous appearances here, Lahiri has missed the cut on every occasion and broken par only once with a 3-under 69 in last year’s opening round. It resembles his current run of form where he has missed four cuts in nine starts and is presently 159th on the FedExCup points list.
However, the 31-year-old is optimistic he will see the light at the end of a long tunnel, saying rectification work on his golf swing is starting to click. He hopes teeing up at THE PLAYERS for the first time in a March will also bring a change in golfing fortune as the premier event moves away from its regular May slot for the first time since 2006.
“I’m having one super-destructive round at every event at the moment,” said Lahiri. “I’m making technical changes to my swing which is why there is some inconsistency. Some days I hit it great, some days I don’t. I’ve also been inconsistent on the greens. Last week, I lost six shots on putting which is not me. I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the greens this week.”
He hopes the arrival of his first child, daughter Tisya, early last month will bring him some good luck too. When Lahiri married his wife Ipsa in mid-2014, he went on to win four times on the Asian Tour and European Tour and secured his PGA TOUR card as well.
“Physically I feel good, mentally I feel good and I personally think I’ve turned the corner as far as my golf swing is concerned,” he said. “Ipsa has been my lady luck and hopefully Tisya can bring me more luck which I could do with some right now.”
THE PLAYERS, which is offering US$12.5 million in total prize money, will showcase 50 of the top-50 players from the FedExCup points list and 50 of the top-50 from the Official World Golf Ranking in this week’s field. TPC Sawgrass is also highly regarded as being a true test of golf.
“It’s an amazing event. Anyone who comes here realises the stature of the event, the amazing way it’s run, the big crowds and TPC Sawgrass, it’ just amazing. I’m looking forward to this date, maybe it’ll bring a change in fortune as I’ve not had success here in May for whatever reason. Maybe this new wind and these new conditions might turn it around for me.”
With a lone top-10 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, Lahiri, who is still seeking the elusive first PGA TOUR victory, is desperate to contend in tournaments again. “I’ve not been in the thick of things. I’d love to get uncomfortable on a Sunday afternoon again. I’ve not been in that position for a while so that’s what I’m working towards. I need to clean up the boat and start from scratch. It’s a good humbling experience and it takes you back as to why you’re in the game and why you want to do it,” he said.
As a member of the previous two International Teams at the Presidents Cup against the United States, Lahiri is not putting too much emphasis into this year’s showdown at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Australia in December.
“The Presidents Cup is on my radar but I’ll be honest. I’ve made no world ranking points in the last eight months. I’ve got to focus on playing golf. My wife reminded me of 2015 when we didn’t know there was a points list, didn’t know how the qualifying was and we just wanted to play good golf. Everything else is a by-product. That’s what I have to go back to.”
Webb Simpson is the defending champion this week and will face a stellar field which features two-time PLAYERS winner Tiger Woods, current FedExCup No. 1 Xander Schauffele and World No. 1 Justin Rose.