Anirban Lahiri opens up about the factors that led to him losing his PGA Tour card
While players are mostly averse to making changes in their game midway through the season, the situation was dire enough for Anirban Lahiri to send an SOS to his long-time coach Vijay Divecha. They spent three weeks in June and July working on various aspects of his game.
India’s sole representative at the highest level of professional golf in the world, the 32-year-old from Bengaluru was a member on the PGA Tour for four years
Lahiri had just one top-10 finish in 2018-19 – a tied 10th place at Mayakoba Classic – and missed nine cuts in 23 starts
Lahiri finished 178th in the FedEx Cup standings after the regular season last week when he needed to be inside the top-125 to keep his card for 2019-20
After losing his playing privilege on the PGA Tour, Anirban Lahiri conceded that the last 18 months have been extremely disappointing, but drew confidence from a number of green shoots that have appeared in his game in the past few weeks.
India’s sole representative at the highest level of professional golf in the world, the 32-year-old from Bengaluru was a member on the PGA Tour for four years. However, he finished 178th in the FedEx Cup standings after the regular season last week when he needed to be inside the top-125 to keep his card for 2019-20.
Lahiri had just one top-10 finish in 2018-19 – a tied 10th place at Mayakoba Classic – and missed nine cuts in 23 starts. Ranked 66th in the world at the beginning of 2017 – and as high as 33 after winning the Hero Indian Open in 2015 – he has now slipped to No. 308.
After missing the cut at the Travelers Championship in late June, Lahiri has made it to the weekend in the last four tournaments he played. However, the lack of big finish proved telling on his PGA Tour future.
The next stop for Lahiri is the Korn Ferry Tour Finals – a series of three tournaments from which the top-25 players based on accumulated points will gain PGA Tour playing rights for 2019-20 season.
Speaking to Firstpost from his West Palm Beach residence, Lahiri was candid in his assessment of the season and reflected on what went wrong.
“Not just this season, but the last 18 months or so have been very disappointing,” he said.
“I think a number of things have affected my golf. It has taken me a long time to adjust to my equipment (switched to Callaway at the start of 2018). There have been a lot of chopping and changing in that time period for me to get comfortable with the clubs that I have in my bag."
“A lot of these changes kind of reverse engineered its way into my golf swing and I ended up having a number of issues with it, especially this year. I was constantly making adjustments, which is why you can see that the consistency just wasn’t there. My strength in the past was that I could make 8-10 birdies on the days I played well. Those days were very few and far in between."
“Also, mentally I was putting a lot of pressure on myself because I knew that a lot of things in my game were not up to the mark."
“I also did a lot of trans-Atlantic travel starting from November last year – I must have gone back and forth between America and India four or five times for personal reasons (the birth of his daughter, Tisya, in February). I don’t want to use that as an excuse because it was very exciting times for us, but it did contribute to my fitness, to my consistency and the fact that I missed a few events."
“I had a gun on my head the last couple of months and I ended up playing a lot more – almost did a stretch of 12-14 weeks on the trot. So, I was also physically tired towards the end."
“All these factors contributed, and when you have so many paper cuts, it all adds up to a big gash.”
The cornerstone of Lahiri’s game has been his ball-striking, and that has let him down badly.
In 2018-19, he was -.869 in ‘Shots Gained – Tee to Green’ to be 183rd on the PGA Tour and found only 62.96 per cent Greens in Regulation (again, 183rd in the category on the Tour). Those, along with ‘Shots Gained – Putting’ (in which he was +.116, 77th) are considered the three most important performance stats in the game.
While players are mostly averse to making changes in their game midway through the season, the situation was dire enough for Lahiri to send an SOS to his long-time coach Vijay Divecha. They spent three weeks in June and July working on various aspects of his game.
Lahiri is already reaping the benefit of those sessions with Divecha and said: “We spent three weeks rooting out the problems that had become infectious. It was a bit late in the season to actually do what I needed to do."
Not just this season, but the last 18 months or so have been very disappointing
“The last four-five tournaments, the game has started turning around. The changes that we worked on – I should say we were trying to remove things from the system rather than adding anything – has started showing in my swing and my game. I think it is safe to say that I am now looking forward to playing, compared to three-four months ago when I really did not know what was going to happen. I am not in that state of mind anymore…I am not under-confident."
“There has been a lot of positives in the past month or so. I have started finding my rhythm even though I have not been able to build a momentum. I am still not completely happy with my driver, but the other 13 clubs in the bag feel rock-solid now. The confidence is building."
“I made a lot of birdies recently and the last tournament I played (Wyndham Championship), I did not drop too many shots, which has been an Achilles’ Heel for me. So, a lot of good things are happening right in time for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, which I am super excited to go and play next week and very positive about."
“These are good signs for me. I am now focused on improving my game and I am not thinking about the results. I want to hit the ball better every day, I want to roll the ball a little better on the greens and I want to improve my proximity on the greens with every round. I want my mistakes to be in play. I think that is a good mindset to have before something as important as the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.”
The first tournament of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals – Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship – starts from 15 August.
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