Lahiri gets last-minute spot; Bhullar hopeful of good show

Sakal Times
Thursday, 11 October 2018

“I’m quite relieved actually. I made my plans in the offseason assuming that I would play, so it came as a bit of a surprise,” said Anirban Lahiri.

KUALA LUMPUR: Anirban Lahiri hopes to make the most of a last-minute dash to Kuala Lumpur to participate in the $7 million CIMB Classic, where he has had good results in the past.

The 31-year-old from Bengaluru finished tied third at the TPC Kuala Lumpur in 2015, which matches the best result by an Asian player in the only PGA Tour event in southeast Asia. He also won the Malaysian Open on the same golf course in 2015, his first win on the European Tour.

Lahiri is part of a quartet of Indian golfers in the field, making it the first time that so many players from the country have featured in a PGA Tour event. The field includes Gaganjeet Bhullar, apart from Shubhankar Sharma and Rahil Gangjee. Bhullar has been in good form and he decided to take a week’s break before the CIMB Classic.

Lahiri’s making it to CIMB was rather dramatic. It was a close call and Lahiri almost did not make it. Ranked 99th on the FedEx Cup last season, he presumed he’d get an entry in the field, but discovered last Friday that he was the first alternate after entries officially closed. He was on the verge of taking a flight to his US base in Florida from San Francisco when he received the news that Andrew Landry withdrew and he was finally in.

“I’m quite relieved actually. I made my plans in the offseason assuming that I would play, so it came as a bit of a surprise,” said the world No 119.

“I was still the first reserve on Sunday and I had a 0030 Cathay flight on Monday to fly to KL and also a 2330 redeye to Florida from San Francisco because if I wasn’t getting in, I was just going to go back to Florida.”

“Then I’m like, oh, maybe I’m not going to play. I have plans for the next couple of weeks where I’m not playing any golf, so it would have ended up like a month of no golf.

“It was important for me to come here and play not only because I have a good record here, but even otherwise. It’s important to get off to a good start and I haven’t done that last week.  The last three years I’ve usually played well in the fall. It’s important for me to get out of the blocks a little and this week’s a good week for me to do that.”

“I know this is definitely my favorite tournament of the year. We all look forward to playing this tournament. It’s a great opportunity for us and really excited, really happy to be back here,” said Bhullar, who is currently ranked fourth in the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

“I’ve been playing quite consistent and quite well this year. The victory in Fiji gave me a lot of confidence. The goal is just to repeat what I’ve been doing the past few months.”

Bhullar was delighted that four Indians were in the field and said the number is only going to increase in the future. “Well, this year all four of us have been playing really well. This is for the first time four of us are playing here,” he added.

“I think it’s a great sign of improvement of Indian golf and I think the next generation will definitely get pumped up, they’ll definitely work hard and hopefully in the future the number increases.”

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