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.''

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Casey in line to make Ryder Cup after Travelers T-2

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:30 am

Despite coughing up a four-shot lead at the Travelers Championship, England's Paul Casey moved into a qualifying position to make his return to the Ryder Cup this fall in Paris.

Casey struggled Sunday at TPC River Highlands, shooting a 72 as Bubba Watson raced to victory with a 63. But a four-way share of second place was still good enough to lift Casey into fourth place among those not already qualified on the World Points list, with the top four Europeans from that list in August punching their tickets to Le Golf National.

Casey has played in three Ryder Cups before, but none since 2008. After renouncing his European Tour membership a few years ago, he reinstated it for the 2018 season in order to be eligible to return to the biennial matches.

Here's a look at the updated standings for Europe, with the top four players from each points list ultimately joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari

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5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Paul Casey

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

6. Ian Poulter

On the American side of the ledger, Watson jumped two spots to fifth with his third win of the year and seemingly locked up his spot on the squad, while Bryson DeChambeau moved inside the top eight with a top-10 finish in Connecticut.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship earning automatic bids:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Bryson DeChambeau

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

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Watson cracks top 15 in world with Travelers win

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:15 am

After his third win in the last five months, Bubba Watson is back on the cusp of the upper echelon in the world rankings.

Watson started the year ranked No. 89 in the world, but after a three-shot victory at the Travelers Championship the southpaw moved up seven spots to No. 13 in the latest rankings. It marks his best position since a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2017.

Watson stayed one spot behind Paul Casey, who was one of four runners-up in Connecticut and rose one position to 12th as a result. Beau Hossler's T-2 finish helped him jump 24 spots to No. 64, while J.B. Holmes went from 93rd to 75th with the same result. Stewart Cink, who grabbed a share of second with a final-round 62, went from No. 149 to No. 95 and is back inside the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since September 2011.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


Matt Wallace, who won the BMW International Open on the European Tour, went from 91st to 66th.

There was only one change among the top 10 in the rankings, as an idle Jon Rahm moved past Jordan Spieth at No. 5 despite Spieth's T-42 finish at TPC River Highlands. At No. 6, Spieth is at his lowest point in the rankings since before last summer's victories at Travelers and The Open.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rahm. Spieth slid to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Poised to return to competition this week at the Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods fell three spots to No. 82 in the latest rankings.

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After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...

Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.

Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.

A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.

So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray


On the difference between this week and last week ...

There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.

Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.

At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard


On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...

Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.

Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.

Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell

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Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:39 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.

Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”

Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.

“Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”