Flashback 2015: Anirban Lahiri lifts Indian golf to new heights

New Delhi, Dec 23: Anirban Lahiri savoured unprecedented success, dominating the headlines with his record-breaking achievements, which included two European tour titles and a fifth place finish at a Major, in what proved to be a transformational year for Indian golf.

In a watershed year which saw him juggle between Asia, US and Europe, Lahiri emerged as the new poster boy of Indian golf clinching the Indian Open and Maybank Malaysian Open, earning a fifth place finish at PGA Championship, qualifying for the prestigious President's Cup, claiming the Asian Tour Order of Merit and achieving a career-best ranking of World No. 34 among others.

A file picture of Anirban Lahiri

While Lahiri continued to scale new heights in world golf, Delhi's Chirag Kumar also revived his career after going through a tough injury-phase with a title win at Panasonic Open at Delhi Golf Club even as other seasoned golfers, including Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal, continued to struggle with their form.

Lahiri, who had earned a European Tour card last year, continued his meteoric rise and claimed his first official win on the European Tour at the Maybank Malaysian Open, with a one stroke victory over Bernd Wiesberger. He had shot 10-under 62 during the third round and came from four shots behind to prevail by one stroke.

He clinched his second European Tour title at home when he won the Hero Indian Open, coming from seven strokes behind in the final round to force a playoff with SSP Chawrasia, which he won with a birdie on the first extra hole.

His prowess at the golf field reflected in his ranking and he broke into the top 50, achieving a career-high position of 34 in the World. He then qualified for the 2015 US Masters, thus becoming only the third Indian after Jeev and Atwal to do so.

He finished tied 49th in his first appearance at Augusta National Golf Club in April. lahiri, along with Shiv Kapur then played at the US Open, the second Major, in June but missed the cut at Chambers Bay.

He then arrived at Scotland for his third Major of the season and ended tied 31st in the 144th Open Championships. In August, Lahiri set a new record for the highest finish by an Indian golfer in a major when he earned a tie for fifth place at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

He became the first Indian to shoot sub-par scores in all four rounds in a Major. He also won the PGA of America's pre-tournament long-drive contest, hitting a 327-yard drive that won him a traditional gold money clip and a USD 25,000 charitable donation in his name.

Lahiri then crossed another milestone when he became the first Indian to be named in the 2015 Presidents Cup squad but he didn't have the best debut as he lost in the first match with Thongchai Jaidee, sat out the second and third sessions, lost the Four-ball with Adam Scott on the third day and then missed a three-foot putt on the 18th hole on the final day at Korea in October to see US register their ninth win.

Lahiri then set off on his quest for the 2016 PGA Tour card, starting as one of the hot picks at the four-event Finals series on the Web.com Tour. However, he only played in the first two events, but earned enough for a PGA Tour card after finishing tied sixth and tied 16th at the Hotel Fitness Championship and Small Business Connection Championships respectively.

He also made few top 10 finishes at Omega European Masters (fifth), Venetian Macao Open (2nd) and UBS Hong Kong Open (seventh). His on-field success saw him become the fourth Indian golfer to lift the coveted 2015 Asian Tour's Order of Merit crown in December.

However, the 28-year-old had a disappointing campaign at the Hero World Challenge, finishing tied last at the Albany Golf Club in Nassau, Bahamas. Among others, Chawrasia blew hot and cold this year with four top 10 finishes out of the 13 events in Asian, while Jyoti Randhawa is also slowly finding his touch back with a couple of top 10 finishes in Asia.

Gaganjeet Bhullar played 17 events in Asia and had just one top 10 finish to show at the Philippine Open. He missed the cut in seven events. Rahil Gangjee missed cut in 10 events out of 18 tournaments with tied fifth finish at Resorts World Manila Masters being his best result this year.

Out of nine events in Asian Tour, Jeev made the cut only in three. His best finish was tied 24th at both UBS Hong Kong Open and India Open. Arjun Atwal, however, played five events in the European Tour, making the cut twice and finishing tied 31st on both occasions.

It was a good year for a few youngsters such as S Chikkarangappa, former winner on the Asian Tour, Himmat Rai (72), young Angad Cheema and Abhijit Chadha (71), who earned their Asian Tour cards through the Qualifying School in Hua Hin, Thailand.

Chikka, in fact, also defended his title at the TAKE Solutions India Masters 2015 on the Asian Development Tour (ADT). Himmat finished tied 2nd and tied 3rd at the Ho Tram Open and Philippine Open respectively out of the 12 events that he played in the Asian Tour, while Chirag also finished tied 2nd at Venetian Macao Open.

Shubham Jaglan

In the domestic season, seasoned Mukesh Kumar clinched the Rolex ranking with two wins and six top 10 finishes from 13 events across India. He was followed by Chikkarangappa and Abhijit Singh Chandha.

Meanwhile, young Indian golfer Shubham Jaglan also etched his name into history books by clinching two titles at the IJGA World Stars of Junior Golf event in Las Vegas, while 14-year-old Ranveer Saini became the first Indian to compete at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.

Teenage golfer Aditi Ashok also made many heads turn as she became the first from the country to win the Ladies British Amateur stroke play golf championship at Leeds, England.

She continued her superb form and ended the year by becoming the first Indian ever to win a Qualifying School event for an international Tour when she a registered a comprehensive three-shot win on the European Tour's Lalla Aicha Tour School Final Qualifier at Morocco.

Among Indian women's golfers, Vani Kapoor clinched five titles in the 18 events that she played, winning the Hero Order of Merit.


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