Kohler, US: Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri won the star-studded Long Drive Competition at the Whistling Straits in the traditional event preceding the PGA Championships, the fourth and final Major of the year.
Lahiri, who had a good weekend with rounds of 67-71 at Akron, Ohio in the WGC-Bridgestone last week, hit the drive to 327 yards as Matt Dobyns and JB Holmes finished second and third on the par-5 593-yard second hole, which is also called "Big Country".
The 'Long Drive' competition requires the golfers not only to hit long but also find the fairway. Big hitters, Rory McIlroy, coming back after missing the British Open, Bubba Watson, Jason Day and Tony Finau, missed the fairway and their drives did not count.
Lahiri, 28, winner of the Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open, which catapulted him into the Top-50 of the world ?- he is now No. 53 in the rankings ?- was pleased with the start.
"That was a great start at the PGA Championships. It is always nice to win something. Now I have least one thing in common with the legendary Jack Nicklaus," he gushed.
The top three drivers, Lahiri, Dobyns and Holmes each receive a money clip yesterday.
The PGA Long Drive Competition originated at the 1952 PGA Championship in Louisville, and was revived last year. The PGA of America offers all players in the field the opportunity to hit one tee shot at the second hole. The ball must come to rest in the fairway to be counted.
The Money Clip is similar to the one Nicklaus received in 1963, while winning the first of his two consecutive PGA Championship Driving titles. In 1963, Nicklaus used a persimmon driver and wound golf ball, hit a winning drive of 341 yards, 17 inches. The competition was discontinued after some years and then revived last year at Valhalla.
Lahiri opens his first round with a morning start alongside Morgan Hoffman of US and Steven Young of Scotland.
Lahiri had also entered the competition last year, but missed the fairway despite a long drive. "I entered this contest last year and I didn't hit the fairway, just like a lot of my friends today," said Lahiri. "It helps to be able to drive it right to left. I hit a good one and got a good bounce. Now that I have a money clip, it's going to be on me all week."
Lahiri, who is a long hitter, has previously won two long drive competitions in India in 2009 (365 yards) and once in 2010 (315 yards).
Lahiri is playing his second PGA Championships ? he missed the cut at Valhalla last year, as he was underweather.
Three other Indians, Jeev Milkha Singh (4 times), Arjun Atwal (twice) and Jyoti Randhawa have made the grade for a tee-up at the PGA Championships.
However, Randhawa pulled out of the event in 2007 because of being unwell. Jeev has made the cut twice in four starts with Tied-9th at Oakland Hills in 2008 being his best. Atwal missed the cut on both appearances.