A year after meeting Tiger, Lahiri on the rise

By Doug FergusonFebruary 27, 2015, 9:26 pm

The best golfer in India played before an enormous gallery with the kind of buzz that is rare for his country. Anirban Lahiri wound up the winner, a day he won't forget.

Except that he wasn't the star that day.

Tiger Woods was in town.

Lahiri and Shiv Kapur, who played college golf at Purdue, were asked to play a three-hole skins game at the end of an exhibition at Delhi Golf Club. Lahiri started playing golf about the time Woods won his first Masters, and Woods became a golfing hero.

''Meeting him in person, he had a strong, positive aura about him,'' Lahiri said in a telephone interview from his home in Bangladore. ''It was nice to interact with him and pick his brain and get some perspective how he goes about his golf. He's been an idol growing up, a larger than life figure.''

That was a year ago, and the 27-year-old Lahiri could not have imagined how much would change since then.

Lahiri will be at Doral next week for his first World Golf Championship in America. Woods, who was No. 1 in the world when he played the exhibition in India, didn't qualify. Back surgery, a change in swing coaches and poor play has dropped him to No. 70 in the world.

Lahiri, the son of an Army doctor, won the Malaysian Open for his first European Tour victory. Two weeks later, he won the Hero Indian Open that effectively locked up a spot in the Masters. He will be only the second Indian to compete at Augusta National.

He is No. 34 in the world - just ahead of Brandt Snedeker and Ian Poulter - and is No. 5 in the Presidents Cup standings. Not bad for a guy who only a few months ago was in Q-school trying to get his European Tour card.

''He's pretty talented,'' said Arjun Atwal, who grew up in Calcutta and remains the only Indian to win on the PGA Tour. ''He's a lot more mature than 27. He's got this thing about him that when he wins, it wants to win the next one. I haven't seen that in as many players.''

As much attention as Woods brought to India last year in a paid exhibition with the head of Hero Motor, players like Lahiri, Singh and Atwal can have a profound effect on a golfing nation still in its infancy. Lahiri remembers Atwal winning the Indian Open when it was part of the Asian Tour. To see someone like Singh become the first European Tour winner from India, to make three appearances in the Masters and reach as high as No. 29 in the world, is inspiring.

''It's always about doing what these guys have done,'' Lahiri said. ''Play in the majors. Play in America. Try to win globally. And make Indian golf more recognizable.''

This will take time, though Lahiri has a chance to become the face of golf in his country.

He was helped by his background. Lahiri grew up in a city of nearly 9 million people and only four golf courses. ''That's probably not very many for America,'' he said, ''but it's quite a few for India.''

He said a large number of golf courses belong to the Army, and his father picked up the game. Lahiri was attracted to the sport as a way to spend more time with him, and he fell in love with golf because it matched his introspective personality.

''Golf is like meditation,'' he said. ''It's the reason I love playing the game. For that day or week, the rest of the world ceases to exist. I go into my happy place, which is the golf course. It's a very special place for me to do my thing and play golf.''

Lahiri never went to a golf academy. He began working with Vijay Divecha as a teenager, and that has been his only coach. Singh came to America and played at Abilene Christian in Texas. Lahiri didn't inquire of American colleges. He studied at home, earning a degree in commerce. He speaks English, Hindi and Bengali, and then he learned Punjabi because most of the amateur golf he played was in that region of India.

He won his first Asian Tour event in 2011, and he had won at least every year since then. But the last month still is hard to digest. Along with getting in World Golf Championships and the Masters, Lahiri only needs to stay in the top 60 for the next three months to qualify for the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. He is writing tournaments in America with hopes of playing more.

''They're all just names on a piece of paper right now,'' he said. ''I can play this event or that event, this major or that major. Once I start competing regularly in the big events, that will really start sinking in. And it's awesome.''

He played the British Open in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and made a hole-in-one on the third round. He tied for 31st, but kept thinking if he had just saved three more shots, he would have been in the top 10. He missed the cut at Royal Liverpool a year ago.

As for the Masters?

He has seen it only on television, mostly the back nine. He remembers the signature holes, such as the par-3 16th and Amen Corner. A friend in Delhi called last week and invited him to play the Masters on his video game.

Lahiri has long-term hopes. His ultimate destination is the PGA Tour, and he'd like to see more players from India behind him. S.S.P. Chawrasia, whom he beat at the Hero Indian Open, is the next highest-ranked player from India at No. 169. Kapur, Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and Gaganjeet Bhullar all have played either WGCs or majors.

''Jeev and myself were the first generation of players who came out of India and were the first to win outside India,'' Atwal said. ''These guys have seen it done. And there's going to more of them. For Anirban's generation, they are not afraid. He really believes he can win.''

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title


Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open


Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59


Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63


Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut


Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club


Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth


The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ


Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year


And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win


Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.