Anirban Lahiri’s impressive showing at the PGA Championship represents solid evidence that Asia could soon be celebrating another major winner, Australian professional Scott Hend said on Wednesday (19).
The 28-year-old Indian has won twice on the European Tour this season and recorded his country’s best-ever result at a major by finishing tied fifth at Whistling Straits last Sunday (16), seven shots adrift of winner Jason Day of Australia.
The Asian Tour money leader was also in contention midway through the British Open at St Andrews last month, but suffered back-nine meltdowns on his final two rounds to finish six-under for the tournament and tied for 30th.
The Indian rued his lack of experience for that collapse and the 42-year-old Hend believes Lahiri would only get better as he played more top tournaments alongside the world’s best.
“Anirban’s got a couple of things to work on a little bit possibly to get to that next level,” six-time Asian Tour winner Hend told reporters in a conference call while confirming his participation at the Venetian Macao Open in October.
“It’s very hard to get to that next level,” he added.
“There are couple of good players among the guys playing in Asia, players who have the potential of possibly figuring in majors.
“It’s just a matter of them getting a bit of self-belief and getting a bit more experience on the world stage.”
South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun remains the only Asian-born man to have won a major when he claimed the 2009 PGA Championship.
Lahiri’s strong showing at the PGA Championship has also put the Indian in a prime position to achieve one of his biggest goals for this year – a spot on the International team at the Presidents Cup, held every two years between United States and Rest of the World (minus Europe).
“Playing at the Presidents Cup would mean the world to me,” Lahiri said.
“Growing up you watch events like the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. Last year I was fortunate enough to be a part of the inaugural EurAsia Cup, and part of a team that came from a whitewash on day one to level it at 10-10 against Europe.
“It’s feeling that does not compare. I’ve won several times now in Asia and Europe and it’s a different kind of thrill when you don’t play for yourself.”
As things stand, Lahiri would be an automatic selection for the Internationals team to take on holders the United States in Incheon, South Korea from October 8-11.
The leading 10 players in the points standings on September 7 will qualify for the Presidents Cup, and captain Nick Price will then add his two wildcard picks the following day.
Lahiri, who has set his sights on securing a US PGA Tour card, is seventh in the standings.
“I am hitting it good and I feel I’m playing well enough to be playing on the Presidents Cup team,” said the Bangalore resident.
“I just need to keep playing well. When I played for Asia last year, it was massive. At the Presidents Cup, you’re playing for the Internationals which is pretty much the rest of the world if you take Europe out of it, so that would be huge.”