Anirban Lahiri knows how to step it up. After all, his rookie season on the PGA Tour, which is nearing its end, has been about familiarisation with venues and allied matters. But more importantly, competing with the best in the world in their backyard has taught him what is required in order to be successful.
“Most of the times, you’re up against a field, 40 per cent of which has played that golf course at least three-four times,” he said.
Teeing up at the Olympic Golf Course is a different matter though. Part of an environmental recovery project, the virgin 18-hole facility will be a test of adaptability. Anirban likened it to teeing up at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC), for long his nemesis till he broke the jinx with the breakthrough win on the Asian Tour in 2011.
“It will be like a rookie on the Asian Tour who tees up for the first time at DGC, where the likes of Mukesh Kumar and Shamim Khan (heavyweights of the home tour) hold an advantage due to their familiarity.” Here though, Adilson da Silva, the lone Brazilian in the fray, too would have hardly got a look-in.
Playing at the highest level, lack of familiarity is of little concern. In fact, teammate SSP Chawrasia likes it that way. In the few days he’s got after landing in Rio, he would have acquainted himself with the conditions. “Acquiring first-hand knowledge is always better,” he said.
Lahiri admits while playing for the Tricolour brings added pressure, the contentment of being a part of golf’s return to the Olympic fold after 112 years has a charm of its own.
Enormity of the occasion
Lahiri and Chawrasia are alive to the enormity of the occasion, but both have played long enough to know that the outcome is beyond their control. Putting the best foot forward is what they can aspire for.
The pride of being a part of “sport’s pinnacle” is unmistakable, but both of them are firm they are not here to make up the numbers. “Olympic medallist Anirban Lahiri sounds definitely better than Olympian Anirban Lahiri.”
Chawrasia would trade-in a win at a Major for an Olympic gold. “For an Indian, the Olympics is huge, and a gold here weighs more than a Major win.”
Tee-off times: Anirban Lahiri, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, 1744 hrs IST; SSP Chawrasia, Seamus Power, Lin Wen-Tang, 1917 hrs IST.