Kuala Lumpur: On a high after reaching World No. 65th, Anirban Lahiri is now determined to enter the top-50 list to earn a shot at the World Golf Championships and Majors but the top Indian golfer said it is a step by step process which will take a lot of harder.
"The Asian Tour Order of Merit is one of the few goals that I have for this season and I`ve put myself in a good position. It`s still a long season ahead," said Lahiri, who earned USD 240,900 so far this year to current sit at the top of Asian Tour`s Order of MeritTour.
"I want to push and see how far I can go. The sky is the limit. I don`t know where I want to get to, I just want to go forward. Everybody`s ultimate goal is to win a Major or more than one. I just need to get into more Majors for now and then hopefully have a chance to win. It`s a step by step process."
It has been a interesting journey for Lahiri from being a wide-eyed young golfer playing in his rookie year in 2008 to becoming the country`s best golfer in 2014 with four Asian Tour titles so far.
Back in November of 2008, Lahiri couldn`t believe his luck when he got into Singapore Open as the first alternate following Ian Poulter`s withdrawal at the 11th hour. Lahiri then stepped onto the first tee in the company of Major champion Phil Mickelson and Asia`s great Thaworn Wiratchant.
"That was my claim to fame back then," Lahiri laughed.
It was indeed a baptism of fire which backfired as rounds of 80 and 76 saw him finish ahead of only six other golfers in the field of 150. Cut to 2014 and Lahiri started his season with a superb victory at the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters, courtesy of a sensational eagle on the 72nd hole, and three other top-10s.
The 26-year-old has taken enough trips to the hard luck saloon and suffered knocks in his fledgling years that he reckons those experiences has shaped his career.
Lahiri believes if he can stick with the winning recipe, it will take him to a Major victory.
"I was just a fledging, a newbie and I`ve learned so much since then," said Lahiri of his first brush with fame in Singapore.
After scrapping through, Lahiri sat down with his coach of 13 years, Vijay Divecha, and agreed they needed to make improvements to his approach towards the game. He then subscribed to Vipassna, one of India`s oldest form of meditation.
"We dodged the bullet that year and realised I won`t go far and we had to do something drastic. My coach said if I could finish fourth under such extreme pressure, I obviously had talent. Then I went for my first Vipassna course in January of 2011 ... I figured I was holding myself back and needed to learn to not get in my own way.
"When I won the Panasonic Open India for my first title on the Asian Tour. But the rest of the year was a slump. After the win, I kind of let go of my focus and attention. I think I took it easy, it was such a relief to win and I took my foot off the gas. But I learnt from that.
"I won early again in 2012 and 2013 and I was determined to not let go. I didn`t want to sit back and relax. I kept pushing hard, kept learning."
Lahiri also paid tribute to his coach Divecha, whom he said was the only coach who told him to not change his natural ability.
"It was a humbling experience, playing with Thaworn and Phil at that time. My game wasn`t rounded back then. I didn`t know what was going on around me. I was totally in awe of Phil and those 36 holes went by like a flash. I probably had something like 75 putts or more during those two days!," Lahiri said.
He admitted he was too young back then to learn from the experience of playing alongside two greats of the game. It was only in 2009 that Lahiri`s career took a steady climb up the fairways to golfing excellence.
"It`s been a gradual climb and improvement for me. It was a lot of hard work and dedication. I`ve taken small steps. I have to give credit to the Professional Golf Tour of India as well as I started out from here," said Lahiri, who contributed two points in Team Asia`s dramatic draw with Europe in the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Malaysia in March.
"People expected me to win on my first year as a pro but it was only in 2009 when I started improving, after playing professionally for a year and a half. Playing week in week out, I was playing 18 events on the PGTI and 10 on the Asian Tour which was 28 weeks compared to my amateur days when I played like 11 or 12 events a year. I didn`t know how to manage my game."
After an uneventful rookie season on the Asian Tour in 2008 bar the Singapore sling, he enjoyed better fortunes in 2009, which included a third place finish at the Hero Indian Open after a final day 64 and finished 24th on the Order of Merit.
But in 2010, he struggled and kept his card only at the penultimate tournament in Cambodia where he said he faced the most "intense pressure" of his young life.
"I was outside the top-60 with two events to go and I was out of form. In Cambodia, I had some serious pressure and I needed to make like USD 10,000 to USD 15,000 in those two last events. I played out of my skin and under such intense pressure as the guys on the bubble were grouped together and I managed to finish fourth that week. That was a huge mental victory for me," he recounted.
You`re making it sound like I almost died and there was 10 sharks and I got attacked and I survived. And, you know, I saved a dolphin, as well.