Golf: Lahiri all set to welcome 2021 with good start at Sony Open in Hawaii

Golf: Ace Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri would look to make a solid start to the year when he tees off at the Sony Open, the first full field event of 2021 on the PGA Tour, starting here on Thursday.

Returning to Hawaii for the fourth time, Lahiri, who has shown a liking for events on Island venues, will aim for a strong start as he begins a run of at least three tournaments in a row.

The Indian star arrives at the Waialae Country Club in Hawaii after a break at home following a series of decent results in the fall, which included his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in nearly two years.

In recent months, Lahiri has done well on the Islands — he was T-6 at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship in the Dominican Republic and T-11 in the Bermuda Championship.

So he will be hoping Hawaii and the Sony Open could bring in some more good news and results for him.

Lahiri is excited about the Sony Open and said, “The schedule so far is looking good. At the moment, I should get into the first four (events) starting with Sony Open, then the American Express and then Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open), and hopefully (Waste Management Phoenix Open) Phoenix. Phoenix might be touch and go, but I think it’s the same week as Saudi (on the European Tour) so I think I should get in.”

His strong run towards the end of 2020 improved his rankings and that has translated into at least three or four straight weeks of action to start of the New Year.

“So yeah, I could actually continue playing but I think as of now, I’m planning on just playing the first four and let us see how it goes. I am feeling good with the game. And I would love to do well in Hawaii,” Lahiri said.

It was a roller-coaster 2020 for Lahiri. First his form dipped and there were not enough tournaments, but the silver lining was that the status he had for 2020 was retained as per PGA Tour’s decision.

“That was a big boost for many of us,” he said.

A truncated 2020 saw him miss four cuts in his first six starts before the Tour was halted in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Lahiri, who had come to India to play the Hero Indian Open in March 2020, was forced to stay on in the country as international flights were suspended.

“It was tough for my golf, but not all that bad, because I got to spend a lot of time with my family, which I normally don’t get. Also I managed to get a lot of time with my coach, Vijay Divecha and work on my game and that helped,” Lahiri said.

Lahiri returned to the US, but got only one more event before the 2019-20 season concluded. Then came the fall season and things turned for the better.

Starting with the Safeway Open, he got in four starts and made cuts in all, including T-6 in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship and T-11 in the Bermuda Championship.

“Those and a couple of other results indicated the game was in a good place. Then came another trip to India,” he said.

“The (second) trip to India was good. I didn’t spend that much time with Vijay, but we kind of went over everything that we had done earlier and kind of consolidated some of the work. Also, it was nice to play some tournaments.”

Lahiri lost in the play-off at the Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational tournament in Chandigarh and capitalised on an invite into the season-ending Indian Tour event in Jamshedpur to finish T-11.

When Lahiri came back to the US just before the calendar turned 2021, he had to ‘rework’ a few things.

“Since I’ve come back I’ve gotten back in the gym to get that weight off. So I was just trying to get back to my routine. Get in the gym; get on the range play some golf and get myself prepared and ready to go.

“So, so far so good. It was a nice Christmas and New Year with my family and then some of our friends, Indian friends who live in America. So it was good. I think the last month or so has been has been good for me both on and off the golf course,” he said.