India’s Anirban Lahiri secured his breakthrough European Tour title by overhauling Austrian Bernd Wiesberger in a dramatic final round of the Malaysian Open last Sunday (8).
Just three months after coming through qualifying school, Lahiri made up five shots on the overnight leader before holding his nerve over the last few holes to emerge a winner by a single stroke after carding a four-under-par 68.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in just yet,” said the 27-year-old after finishing 16-under for the tournament. “But I’m pretty sure when it hits home it’s going to be a really happy moment for me.
“I think I’ve got a bad habit of making it hard for myself, but I’m happy I got over the line, as ugly as it was towards the end.”
Lahiri, who soared into contention with a third round 62 last Saturday (7), got off to a blistering start at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club by birdying four of his first five holes.
Wiesberger also picked up shots at his first two holes and it was only when the Austrian double bogeyed the par-five seventh that the duel was on.
Lahiri sank a 40-foot putt at the 17th to grab the outright lead for the first time but Wiesberger birdied the 16th to tie the contest up again.
It lasted only one hole before Wiesberger made a mess of his approach shot at the 17th to hand the advantage back to Lahiri.
Lahiri said the previous day’s round had been crucial to becoming only the fourth Indian to win a European Tour title, and he was already calculating his chances of a US Masters debut next year.
Only Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and SSP Chowrasia have won European Tour titles before Lahiri.
“In hindsight, that was one of the most crucial rounds of my career, and it’s fantastic when you play well at the right times,” he added.
Lahiri’s success and rise up the rankings has now put him in line to play the upcoming Masters, golf’s most sought-after individual prize.
“The Masters is definitely one of my targets. I don’t know how far I’ll move up (in rankings), but I’m pretty confident now with this win I should have a pretty good chance,” Lahiri said.
With this win, the Indian golfer also takes the early lead in the Asian Tour Order of Merit and moves to seventh on the Race to Dubai standings. He also gets an exemption to the European Tour until the end of 2017.
Wiesberger’s fourth successive top-10 finish put him in the top five on the Race to Dubai, but the 29-year old was left to rue his closing 74. “It hasn’t quite finished the way I intended to,” he said.
“After the hiccup on five, I didn’t hit it anywhere near as good as the last 15 rounds. But it is what it is and unfortunately I beat myself out of it today.”
Englishman Paul Waring (73) and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares (74) finished tied for third on 13 under, while defending champion Lee Westwood returned 75 for a share of fifth.