April 6, 2015 / 8:35 AM / 4 years ago

Debutant Lahiri keen not to get lost in Augusta 'temple'

(Reuters) - India’s Anirban Lahiri will fulfill a childhood dream when he makes his U.S. Masters debut this week at the fabled Augusta National and the world number 34 is determined not to lose his way in the golfing “temple”.

Anirban Lahiri of the India watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during a practice round ahead of the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, northern England July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The 27-year-old has forced his way into the year’s first major after a productive 12 months in Asia that yielded four titles, including two in lucrative European Tour co-sanctioned events.

Lahiri has sought tips on Augusta from former Asia number ones and compatriots Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh and recognizes keeping his nerves in check would be the first pre-condition for an eye-catching week.

“It’s easy to get a little overwhelmed and overawed with the history and tradition of the event,” he said in an Asian Tour release on Monday.

“It’s a place of reverence, it’s like a holy place and you can get lost in the temple.

“For me, the three days before the first round will be very important...the faster I get comfortable, the more comfortable I will feel.

“I’ll spend as much time there on Monday and Tuesday and get over the big moment of being there. My first tee shot will be a huge one. After that first few shots, how I can focus will be very important.”

He has been tipped as a potential major winner by former world number one Ernie Els and Lahiri knows the kind of ripple effect such a success would have on golf in India and across Asia.

“If I can do well, it will be a big motivating factor. Even I didn’t think it was possible but it is possible. It was very much like when Arjun went to America and won, nobody thought it was possible and now, people will change their belief system.

“My goal is to try my best and do something like that... make an impact not just in India but in Asia as well,” added Lahiri.

Thai stalwart Thongchai Jaidee, who will be making his fourth Masters appearance this week, was optimistic it was just a matter of time before an Asian joins 2009 PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang as the continent’s second major winner.

“Development of golf needs time and these days, I see golfers from Japan and Korea have been coming out strong and representing our continent on the world stage.

“A country like India is also doing well. But at the end of the day, it needs time,” said the world number 43.

Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Patrick Johnston

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