Lahiri ready to step up at Open Championship

Kuala Lumpur: Indian star Anirban Lahiri believes he will arrive for his second Open Championship appearance next week as a much more accomplished golfer than he was before at his major debut two years ago.

The current Asian Tour number one earned a starting place at Royal Liverpool as one of 10 non-exempt players from the Official World Golf Ranking last week.

News of his late entry into the Open Championship caught him by complete surprise as he was still on his honeymoon in Madagascar.

After making hurried plans to get home which took some 36 hours of travel door to door, the 27-year-old has since kept himself busy by trying to get his game back into groove with his coach Vijay Divecha.

"I`ve been practising hard over the last three days which is good .... Just trying to get back into the groove," said Lahiri, who finished tied 31st at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 2012.

"It was a great surprise that I`ve got into my second Open next week. I thought the qualifying cut off was sometime in May and when I checked the Open website, they only had the regular categories available and I assumed I had missed the chance as I wasn`t in the field for any of the qualifying events.

"That was why I had scheduled to get some time off. My wife has taken it well although her honeymoon is truncated but she understands the situation, being the wife of a professional golfer. She`s been very supportive and I promised to take her back to Madagascar."

Under the watchful eyes of coach Divecha, Lahiri has been working hard on pulling off the shots required for links golf but knows he must possess a strong state of mind ahead of his Major quest.

"I`m looking forward to a new course and a new challenge. In the two years since my first Open appearance, I believe I have progressed as a player and I feel I am going back to the Open as a more rounded player than the last time. I`m looking forward to put my best foot forward," he said.

"We`ve been working on reducing the spin rate on the ball and hitting low shots. I`m trying to get the rhythm and tempo going again and also working on the mental aspect.

"I want to play next week in a relaxed approach as life has been hectic with the wedding (in late May) and there`s been a lot of things in the head like getting the visas, accommodation and airline bookings done. I am trying to get it all out of the head now and focus on playing my best."

A return to the world`s oldest championship is the just reward for Lahiri, who is enjoying a great run in 2014. He has shot to the top of the Asian Tour`s Order of Merit with one victory and three other top-10s and also played a big role in Asia`s memorable draw with Europe in the inaugural EurAsia Cup where he contributed two points.

At 85th in the world rankings, Lahiri is determined to break into the top-50 which will give him access into the World Golf Championships and Majors.

"These things motivate me," he said. "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.

"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."

Other Asian Tour members competing in The Open Championship next week include three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, reigning number one Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Asian Tour Honorary Members KJ Choi, YE Yang and Ernie Els and England`s Chris Rodgers.

Japan`s Masanori Kobayashi, Yoshinobu Tsukada, Koumei Oda, Korea`s Kim Hyung-sung and 2011 Order of Merit champion Juvic Pagunsan will also be in the elite field next week.

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