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Lahiri begins quest to earn Tour card in Houston

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HUMBLE, Texas – His bags are packed, his passport is ready. Anirban Lahiri is excited to embark on a torrid summer of golf, one that he hopes will net him a PGA Tour card.

Lahiri is set to make his first Masters appearance, and he is in the field this week at the Shell Houston Open to prepare on a variety of fronts: learning a course with a similar setup to Augusta National, getting used to playing on rye grass, and shaking off the 10-hour jet lag that accompanies a flight from his native India.

After a pair of wins this year on the European Tour, Lahiri is ranked No. 33 in the world and his rapid ascent through the rankings has begun to sink in – even if he hasn’t actually gotten his hands on his Masters invitation that was mailed earlier this week.

“I saw a photograph, a picture of it, and it’s really nice,” Lahiri said. “It’s one of those feelings  that tells you, ‘OK, it’s happening.’”

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Lahiri is playing this week on a sponsor invite, and his position inside the OWGR top 50 will allow him a number of high-profile starts in the coming weeks as he chases full-time status on the PGA Tour. The 27-year-old will play the RBC Heritage the week after the Masters, followed by likely spots in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play and Players Championship next month.

“Just in the immediate future, it’s a great schedule,” he said. “It will kind of give me a better idea of where I need to go.”

Lahiri remains a European Tour member, and he will head back to Europe in May for a handful of starts. With spots lined up in each of the four majors plus the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, he left India last week knowing he wouldn’t return for five months.

“It’s going to be a lot of hotels, a lot of looking at the same suitcase every day for a long time,” Lahiri said.

Lahiri is making just his third start in the U.S. this week, and the previous two haven’t been successful: he missed the cut at the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and finished T-71 out of 73 players last month at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Based on what he’s seen from early practice at the Golf Club of Houston, he feels those results will turn around this week.

“I’m not saying this course isn’t hard, but it’s definitely a lot fairer than the other two I’ve played,” he said. “What you see is what you get. I really like that in a golf course.”