Lahiri walks away from dream Open week with confidence

Anirban LahiriLytham St Annes, England: Indian prospect Anirban Lahiri ended a dream week at The Open Championship on Sunday with a new self-belief that he can stand his ground against the world’s best players.

The 25-year-old signed off his major debut with a battling three-over-par 73 on a tough day at Royal Lytham and St Annes, finishing on three-over-par 283 and well ahead of the likes of former Open champions Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie and Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, ranked second and third in the world respectively.

“I won’t be intimidated anymore. If I can come here and hold my ground, I can hold it in any event and any field looking into the future,” said Lahiri, who is a two-time Asian Tour winner.

“I am so much richer from the experience and confidence that I have gained this week. I think I’ve gained a lot of respect from the players. I think I can rate my game a bit higher now than when I came here initially.

“I feel I can come out here and play well, whether in Europe or America. I played with three different PGA Tour players this week and the same thing that Arjun (Atwal, who plays in the US) tells us, if you can shoot five or six under in India, you can do it in America as well. That’s the attitude that I should bring.”

The talented Indian dropped four bogeys against one lone bogey, which he recorded at the par three ninth – the hole where he recorded a magical hole-in-one during the third round. Lahiri came close to a grandstand finish on 18 when he lipped out a birdie attempt from 10 feet.

“It was special. Yesterday, I hit a bad drive on 18. Today, I hit a driver and blasted it as far as I can blast it and fly all those traps. That reflects how I was feeling on the course. I was telling my caddie that I’m not scared any more. I used to be four years back but not anymore. I think that’s a major point in my career,” said Lahiri, who played alongside American world no. 30 Nick Watney in the final round.

He said the walk up to the final green in front of record galleries at the Lancashire links will be forever etched in his memory.

“It’s been a great week. It was special walking up the 18th. I’m happy that despite I played poorly, I looked at the leaderboard and I thought I would have lost 40 positions. But I obviously didn’t play that bad. It’s been a dream week. I would like to come back again and again and keep playing well,” said Lahiri.

“It was a tough day. The winds were quite blowy towards the end. I didn’t really concentrate on the back nine. I think I could have made three putts less coming in. I was disappointed with how I finished. But I can’t complain.”

Jeev Milkha Singh, who finished seven shots behind Lahiri, predicted a bright future for his young countryman.

“I think it’s fantastic. He’s a youngster, he’s hungry and he wants to prove himself. I think he’ll do well. He’s got a lot of talent. He just needs to come out and prove himself. The sky is the limit for him. If he keeps working hard, keep working on the right stuff, he’ll do well anywhere in the world,” said Singh, who is a two-time Asian Tour number one.

“It’s good to see that there is a lot of talent in our country and they look up to us. If I put myself in their shoes, if these guys have done this, I would like to go out and do better. I think he’s got the full package. He’s good enough too. Just build on the confidence and he can win anywhere in the world.”