Picture Courtesy - Asian Tour
Anirban Lahiri (68-72-70-73) ended a dream week at The Open Championship on Sunday with a battling three-over-par 73 on a tough day at Royal Lytham and St Annes, finishing on three-over-par 283 in tied 31st position.
Jeev Milkha Singh (70-71-76-73) signed off from The Open Championship with a three-over-par 73 on Sunday to total 10-over-par 290 for the week and end up in tied 69th place.
The 25-year-old Lahiri, who finished well ahead of leading international stars such as Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, in his Major debut, said, “I won’t be intimidated anymore. If I can come here and hold my ground, I can hold it in any event and any field looking into the future.”
“I am so much richer from the experience and confidence that I have gained this week. I think I’ve gained a lot of respect from the players. I think I can rate my game a bit higher now than when I came here initially.
“I feel I can come out here and play well, whether in Europe or America. I played with three different PGA Tour players this week and the same thing that Arjun (Atwal, who plays in the US) tells us, if you can shoot five or six under in India, you can do it in America as well. That’s the attitude that I should bring,” said Lahiri, who is a two-time Asian Tour winner.
The talented Indian dropped four bogeys against one lone birdie, which he recorded at the par three ninth – the hole where he recorded a magical hole-in-one during the third round. Lahiri came close to a grandstand finish on 18 when he lipped out a birdie attempt from 10 feet. Lahiri now holds the record for the second-best finish by an Indian at The Open behind Jyoti Randhawa’s tied 27th in 2004.
“It was special. Yesterday, I hit a bad drive on 18. Today, I hit a driver and blasted it as far as I can blast it and fly all those traps. That reflects how I was feeling on the course. I was telling my caddie that I’m not scared any more. I used to be four years back but not anymore. I think that’s a major point in my career,” said Lahiri, who played alongside American world no. 30 Nick Watney in the final round.
He said the walk up to the final green in front of record galleries at the Lancashire links will be forever etched in his memory.
“It’s been a great week. It was special walking up the 18th. I’m happy that despite playing poorly, I looked at the leaderboard and thought I would have lost 40 positions. But I obviously didn’t play that bad. It’s been a dream week. I would like to come back again and again and keep playing well,” said Lahiri.
“It was a tough day. The winds were quite blowy towards the end. I didn’t really concentrate on the back nine. I think I could have made three putts less coming in. I was disappointed with how I finished. But I can’t complain.”
Jeev Milkha Singh, a two-time Asian Tour number one, was disappointed he failed to make an impact at Royal Lytham and St Annes although he and compatriot Anirban Lahiri wrote a small slice of history by becoming the first two Indians to feature together in the weekend rounds of a Major.
The 40-year-old has been on the road for five weeks, which was highlighted by his play-off triumph in Scotland last Sunday. It moved him up to 87th in the world and with the top-50 very much in his sights now which will earn him a return to The Masters Tournament next April.
“I was really glad to be here. I enjoyed every bit of it. I expected better results than the way it has ended up. I fought hard,” said Singh.
“My goal was to finish under par but I fell short. Mentally I’m tired and I’ll rest next week and start again at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (in August). Time to celebrate (the Scottish win). We’ll have a few parties at home.”
With a string of big events coming up until the end of the season, including those on the Asian Tour, Singh believes he has every chance of raking up world ranking points to build on his recent return to winning form.
“My goal is to be in the top-50 by the end of the year. I’ve got big events, WGC events coming up, I’ve got a very good chance,” he said.
Singh completed a personal milestone this week by making the halfway cut which meant that he has now played in four rounds of all the Majors. He hopes to return to The Open next year and put on a better showing.
“You have to hit the ball well and stay patient. I was patient all the time. You’ve got to be on top of the game to be under par and stay away from the bunkers. What I take from here is that this is my first Open where I played four rounds,” said Singh.
Jeev, who finished seven shots behind Lahiri, predicted a bright future for his young countryman.
“I think it’s fantastic. He’s a youngster, he’s hungry and he wants to prove himself. I think he’ll do well. He’s got a lot of talent. He just needs to come out and prove himself. The sky is the limit for him. If he keeps working hard, keep working on the right stuff, he’ll do well anywhere in the world,” said Singh, who is a two-time Asian Tour number one.
“It’s good to see that there is a lot of talent in our country and they look up to us. If I put myself in their shoes, if these guys have done this, I would like to go out and do better. I think he’s got the full package. He’s good enough too. Just build on the confidence and he can win anywhere in the world.”