Kuala Lumpur: Indian star Anirban Lahiri hopes to tick all the right boxes at the lucrative US$7 million CIMB Classic which starts on Thursday.
The 27-year-old knows he can seal the prestigious Asian Tour’s Order of Merit title with a strong showing at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s West course, a venue which he was triumphant at the Malaysian Open in February.
With the CIMB Classic being jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA TOUR, which he is also a member of the latter for its 2015/2016 season, the tenacious Indian knows a big week could also be the springboard to his American dream.
“This is a very important week for me in many different ways. Both in terms of 2015 and in terms of 2016, it's a funny situation to be in because obviously this event is critical as far as the Asian Tour Order of Merit is concerned,” said Lahiri, who leads second-ranked Scott Hend of Australia by slightly over US$621,000 on the Asian Tour rankings.
“I've been trying to do it (win the Order of Merit) for the last two years. A couple years back Kiradech (Aphibarnrat) got way ahead of us and it kind of shows you how important it is to play well at KLGCC. I'm in the exact same position, and hopefully I can put four good rounds together this week and give myself enough distance where I may not be caught. That would be utopian for me if I can do that by Sunday.
“And in terms of where I am now with moving on to play in America and getting my card and my membership there, this becomes a very important event because this is my first event on the PGA TOUR officially for 2016,” he added.
World number 37 Lahiri will be one of the favourites at the CIMB Classic, due largely to his triumph earlier this season on the West course which included a 10-under-par 62 in the third round.
He will need to contend against a stellar line-up who includes Major champions Adam Scott of Australia and Ernie Els of South Africa, 2013 FexExCup champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and double title holder Ryan Moore of the United States.
Mardan Mamat of Singapore, who finished fifth in the 2010 CIMB Classic, S.S.P. Chawrasia of India and Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand will be amongst the Asian Tour stars hoping to catch Lahiri on the Merit race.
Playing in his fourth straight week, which included a debut at the Presidents Cup in Korea three weeks ago, Lahiri is prepared to dig deep into his reserves to maintain his good form which includes two top-10s in Macao and Hong Kong.
“In terms of the game, I think it's in a really good place. But obviously the energy levels are beginning to dip. It's been a long year. I've made four or five trips all the way across the world from India to America, then back, then to Europe, then back, then to Asia, then back. But I'm at home right now. This is as close to home as it gets for me, and I'm just comfortable on this golf course,” said Lahiri.
Mardan, a five-time Asian Tour winner, hopes to celebrate his 48th birthday on Saturday in style. The veteran plans to repeat his achievement in 2010 when he claimed his biggest pay cheque by finishing fifth at the CIMB Classic.
The Singaporean veteran was the last man to qualify through the Asian Tour Order of Merit rankings, although he missed the cut in Hong Kong last weekend which made the wait all the more nervous for him.
“I’m feeling very good. I’m fortunate to get into the tournament and I’m happy with my achievement. I felt a bit nervous in Hong Kong because I missed the cut and there were a few guys behind me on the Order of Merit making a move,” said Mardan.
“It is a good week to boost my rankings on the Order of Merit. It is a bonus to be playing this week. My birthday is on Saturday so I gave myself an early birthday present by qualifying for this event. My wife and son are here so we should have a good time,” he said.
About CIMB Group
The title sponsor of the CIMB Classic is CIMB Group. CIMB Group is one of ASEAN’s leading universal banking groups. Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, the Group is now present in 8 out of 10 ASEAN nations. CIMB Group offers a full suite of financial services and related products; has a market capitalisation of approximately USD 12.4 billion as at 30 June 2015 and over 44,000 employees located in 17 countries. Read more about CIMB Group at www.cimb.com.
About PGA TOUR
The PGA TOUR is the world’s premier membership organization for touring professional golfers, co-sanctioning more than 130 tournaments on the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour, Web.com Tour, NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR China.
The PGA TOUR’s mission is to entertain and inspire its fans, deliver substantial value to its partners, create outlets for volunteers to give back, generate significant charitable and economic impact in the communities in which it plays, and provide financial opportunities for TOUR players.
Worldwide, PGA TOUR tournaments are broadcast to more than 1 billion households in 225 countries and territories in 32 languages. Virtually all tournaments are organized as non-profit organizations in order to maximize charitable giving. In 2013, tournaments across all Tours generated more than $134 million for local and national charitable organizations and in early 2014 the TOUR’s all-time charitable contributions surpassed $2 billion.