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PGA Championship 2017: Anirban Lahiri India's big hope at year's toughest golf event

Ever since he made it to the PGA Tour, the biggest stage for golf in the world, Anirban Lahiri has been re-writing records in Indian golf. Lahiri, who turned 30 in June this year, will try this week to better his own record for the best finish ever by an Indian at a Major, as he seeks to improve on his tied-fifth place at the 2015 PGA Championship.

Lahiri, much liked and loved on the PGA Tour as a smiling and articulate young man, likes setting new benchmarks, but is not satisfied as he seeks his maiden title on the Tour. “I have been here for two-and-a-half years and have made America my home (Palm Beach, Florida). So I really feel I belong here. So nothing would be more pleasing than winning on the PGA Tour, and of course, doing well and some day win a Major too.”

 PGA Championship 2017: Anirban Lahiri Indias big hope at years toughest golf event

File photo of Anirban Lahiri. Reuters

Many of his fellow players feel Lahiri has been ready to win his first PGA Tour title for some time. He was tied-fifth at the 2015 PGA Championship, T-3 at CIMB Classic in 2016 and T-2 at the Memorial this year. The field was very strong in all of them.

Now ready for his 13th Major appearance, Lahiri says, “It is always a professional's dream to play a Major. Having done that, you want to do well and of course, win. That’s what I want to do. And I seriously feel I can do that.”

So here is the lowdown on the 99th PGA Championship:

Lahiri speak: It is nice to come back to a venue where I have some playing experience (Wells Fargo Championship 2016). The course has taken a lot of rain and is playing very long. The key this week will be the greens. They are quite similar to Augusta in speed and slope. Will be important to keep the ball on the correct side to give yourself the best opportunity. My coach Vijay (Divecha) and I have been working the past couple of weeks on new practice and attitude techniques. That is something that will definitely help me in the course. I am excited going into this week. Hopefully the weather doesn't play spoiltsport as a lot of rain and thunder is predicted.

The Majors: Of the four Majors, Lahiri is teeing up for his second one this year. He did not get into the Masters and the US Open and missed the cut at The British Open. Lahiri has played 12 Majors before coming to the 99th PGA Championship and has made the cut in six. His best is T-5 at the 2015 PGA Championship.

Lahiri also had a hole-in-one in his first appearance at the British open in 2012.

What is The PGA Championship: Often referred to as the US PGA Championship, it is the fourth and final Major. However, from 2019, the PGA Championship will be moved forward to May and will become the second one after the Masters (in April). They will be followed by US Open (in June) and The British Open (in July).

This is the 99th edition of the PGA, which began in 1916 at the Siwanoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York.

The prize: This year’s PGA Championship carries $10.5 million as the total purse with 18 percent going to the winner. In 2016, the winner Jimmy Walker earned $1.8 million and the Wanamaker Trophy, donated by departmental store magnate, Rodman Wanamaker. The winner gets a smaller replica of the trophy to keep.

In contrast, the first winner in 1916, Jim Barnes got $500 and a diamond-studded gold medal donated by Wanamaker.

The field: 156 players, including all but three of the top-115 players in the world, making it the strongest event of 2017.

The course for 2017: The Quail Hollow Club which is 7,600 yards will play to a par of 71. Quail Hollow is considered one of the toughest courses on the Tour. Tom Fazio’s latest upgrade has three new holes, including a new 524-yard first hole made by merging the old first and second holes. The fourth and fifth are also new, made from the previous par-5 fifth hole.

The famous ‘Green Mile’: The 'Green Mile' is the toughest closing three holes on the PGA Tour. The 16th is a 506-yard par-four, which is a watery hole and is followed by a massive 223-yard par-three 17th. The 18th is yet another difficult par-four 494 yard hole. Many a brilliant round has been ruined on the Green Mile and the Wanamker Trophy on Sunday could be decided by these three holes.

The big story: Jordan Spieth, fresh from his win at the British Open is seeking to become the youngest ever to complete a career slam (which translates to winning all four Majors). If Spieth, who turned 24 on 27 July, does it, it will be before his 24th birthday and it would better Tiger Woods’ record.

Stars to watch: Apart from Spieth, the stars to watch out for will be Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Jimmy Walker all of whom had won their first Major in the past 15 months. They will now seek to double that number. Rory McIlroy has not added a Major to the four he had won till 2014, but the fact that his last major was a PGA at Valhalla will surely spur him on to make it five.

Landmarks: Phil Mickelson (five Majors) and Ernie Els (four Major) are playing their 100th career Major. There have been 12 players to do it before them with Jack Nicklaus’s 164 Majors being the highest. Gary Player (150) and Tom Watson (145) are the next in line.

What happened last year: Walker held off Jason Day to win the 98th PGA Championship at Baltusrol to win his first Major. The win had special meaning for Walker and caddie Andy Sanders, who met at Baltusrol when both were competing in the 2000 US Amateur. Eight years later, Walker turned his bag over to Sanders.

Need to know: Eight of the past 11 Major winners have been first-timers, including Garcia and Koepka this year. The exceptions have been Spieth (twice) and Zach Johnson at the 2015 Open at St Andrews.

The first 39 editions of the PGA Championship were played as match play and this is the 60th to be played as stroke play.

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Updated Date: Aug 10, 2017 08:41:14 IST