New Delhi: Anirban Lahiri has become the fourth Indian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title. He was today declared the new Asia No. 1 for 2015 as he enjoys an unassailable lead of over US$ 600,000 in the money list with just one event remaining in the season.
Lahiri has followed in the footsteps of Jyoti Randhawa (2002), Arjun Atwal (2003) and Jeev Milkha Singh (2006 & 2008), the three Indians to have previously lifted the Asian Tour Order of Merit crown.
The 28-year-old Anirban amassed record earnings of US$1,139,084 during the 2015 Asian Tour season to set the stage for his ascendancy to the status of Asia No. 1 for the first time. He thus became only the third player in Asian Tour history to surpass the US$ 1 million earnings barrier in a single season, achieved thus far by countryman Jeev Milkha Singh and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand.
The Bengaluru lad described lifting the coveted trophy as ‘really special’ as he reset his goals to winning in America and becoming a Major champion in the near future.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to win,” said Lahiri, who finished third and second on the Merit list in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
As he savoured the rewards, Lahiri said he was honoured to join Asian golf legends such as Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand and countrymen Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa as Asia’s number one golfer.
“I feel really happy and it makes me really proud to be in the same league of players like Thongchai, Jeev, Arjun, Thaworn and Jyoti as they are all legends of the game and have won the Order of Merit. It’s nice to be in the same bracket and have something in common. It’s something that is really special.”
It’s been a season of monumental achievements for the big-hitting Lahiri. The European Tour rookie notched up two wins within a span of three weeks at the European Tour & Asian Tour co-sanctioned Maybank Malaysian Open and Indian Open to make his way up to a career-high 33 in the world rankings.
“Winning in Malaysia and then the Hero Indian Open will always be my cherished moments. To do it in a year which I’ve had is fantastic. Those wins got me into the Masters and playing The Open at St Andrews for the first time, it’s been a year filled with highlights for sure,” said Anirban, who had a tied 30th finish at the British Open 2015.
The Indian star went on to bag five more top-10 finishes around the globe which included a sensational tied fifth place at the PGA Championship which happened to be the best result by an Indian at the Majors. He set another record by becoming only the second Indian after Jeev Milkha Singh to play all four Majors in the same year.
“Coming in joint fifth at the PGA Championship, it’s been fantastic. There was so much that I took away from the week. The confidence and self-belief that I gained and earning the respect of the best players in the world ... that’s not easily done,” added Lahiri, who also finished an impressive 20th in the European Tour Race to Dubai.
The last quarter of the year saw the eloquent Indian golfer add two more pages to his growing list of achievements as he became the first Indian to play for the International Team at the Presidents Cup and then also earned his PGA Tour card for the following season.
Lahiri, who is now looking forward to making an impact in the United States next season, attributes his steady growth to the years spent on the Asian Tour where he got his first exposure to international competition at the professional level.
“The Asian Tour has been instrumental. It has a rewarding structure. If you can keep your card and break into the top-30, you can play in the best events around Asia,” said Lahiri, who is a seven-time Asian Tour winner.
“There are so many fantastic events with great fields, world ranking points and prize money on offer. There are not many Tours in the world that give you that opportunity and that’s what I’ve really benefitted from in the past eight years.
“Playing on various golf courses, the exposure of travelling and playing in different conditions and getting used to different time zones, these things definitely make you an international player. It prepares you for big things and it has made me a better player.
“Obviously now, I’m looking onwards and upwards. Hopefully, playing on PGA Tour, I’d love to get a win in America. Ultimately, I want to try and win a Major. I can’t put a timeline on that goal, but if I can put myself in contention at least once next year, that would be a great start. The long term goal is to win a Major.”