(Reuters) - India’s Anirban Lahiri has already enjoyed a career-best year at the highest level and is now itching to make his debut at the Presidents Cup next week when Asia will stage the biennial team competition for the first time.
Lahiri is one of five Asia-born players on the 12-man International roster set to take on the United States and he believes golf will receive a “massive” boost on his continent when the Cup is played in Incheon, South Korea from Oct 8-11.
”The Presidents Cup is going to be big news in Asia,“ Lahiri told Reuters. ”It’s great to have that spotlight on Asia because people there are going to recognize there is a sport called golf which is a global phenomenon, and a very popular one at that.
”It’s going to help the growth of the game in Asia, more corporates hopefully are going to invest in it, the events are going to get bigger, the tours will get stronger and better players will come out of the region.
“No question, it’s going to be massive for what this event is going to do for golf in Asia.”
Lahiri, a double winner on the European Tour this year, joins fellow Asians Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, South Korea-born New Zealander Danny Lee, Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand and Korean Bae Sang-moon on Nick Price’s International team.
“It’s very important to have a host (Korean) representation on our team,” said Lahiri, the first player from India to compete in the Presidents Cup.
“Sang-moon is there and Danny Lee, even though technically he is from New Zealand, is of Korean origin. So it’s going to be great. It will be fantastic to get the home crowd going.”
Lahiri is also hoping that the Internationals can benefit from ‘home’ advantage at Incheon’s Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, where Bae has won the Korean Tour’s Shinhan Donghae Open for the last two years.
“It will also be good for the team because both Thongchai and I have played there quite a few times so we kind of know what to expect,” the 28-year-old Bangalore resident smiled. “I think that might work to our advantage.”
Competing in his first Presidents Cup against holders the United States will add gloss to what has already been a year to remember for Lahiri.
He won his first European Tour title at the Malaysian Open in February before adding a second later that month at the Indian Open. He then switched his focus to the PGA Tour where he initially struggled for form before gradually settling in.
Now impressively ranked 39th in the world, Lahiri played in all of golf’s elite events this season -- the four majors and the four World Golf Championships events – with a best finish of joint fifth in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
”I’ve been playing well,“ said Lahiri, a seven-times winner on the Asian Tour where he leads the order of merit this season. ”You have to just keep pushing yourself, keep evolving and keep setting the bar higher.
”And that’s what I found myself doing midway through the season which is a fantastic thing for me. It’s been great getting the experience of coming out on the PGA Tour, playing in all these events and kind of understanding what I need to do.
“I now believe that I am good enough to be out here, competing and winning. It’s been a very important learning curve for me. I‘m just sticking to my own strengths ... and I think it’s enough to win out here.”
Editing by Frank Pingue