Updated March 27th, 2024 at 16:10 IST

Focus on comeback man Anirban Lahiri as Hero Indian Open begins this weekend

It will be a homecoming for the Indian, who won his last title at the same event way back in 2015 and is he hoping to regain the crown at the 57th edition of the tournament at the DLF Golf and Country Club this week.

Anirban Lahiri | Image:Olympics
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His Olympic hopes hanging by a thread, star Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri's ambitious effort to make the Paris Games cut by ending a nine-year-long title drought will be a fascinating subplot as the prestigious Hero Indian Open tees off here on Thursday.

A two-time Olympian, Lahiri, who will return to the national championships, finds himself in a tight spot as his ranking plummeted to 401 after he switched to Saudi-backed LIV golf, which is not recognised by the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), jeopardising his Paris chances.

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It will be a homecoming for the Indian, who won his last title at the same event way back in 2015 and is he hoping to regain the crown at the 57th edition of the tournament at the DLF Golf and Country Club this week.

"You know the weight of, I don't know how many dozens of seconds, I've had, lays heaviest on my shoulders. So I need to get that off my back. I want to win, I am desperate to win," said Lahiri.

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"The driver is I have to prove to myself that I can win again. It's been a while and nobody feels that more than I do. So even though I've played 15, 16 years, I'm still as desperate to win this week as I was 10, 15 years ago, because I have to prove it to myself. I don't have to prove it to anybody else.

"I would love to go to Paris. So I need to focus on potentially eight rounds or 12 rounds that I have between now and Paris that will get me there. I will find those events on the Asian Tour, but it depends on a lot of variables. Olympics remains an unfinished business." Lahiri is currently the third Indian in the official rankings behind Shubhankar Sharma (202) and Gaganjeet Bhullar (240). The cut-off date for the men's competition of Olympic Games is June 17.

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Only 60 golfers each in the men's and women's categories make the field in Olympics with the top 15 world-ranked players making the cut with a limit of four players from a given country.

Countries with players, who are not ranked in the top 15, will get a maximum of two eligible players.

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Among Indian golfers, Sharma (48) and Bhullar (52) are inside the top-60 Games rankings created by International Golf Federation (IGF).

Lahiri to make it to Paris, he will have to accumulate enough ranking points before June 17 to get inside top 60.

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The 36-year-old will have to compete with a total of 144 players from over 25 countries as they vie for honours at the USD 2.25 million tournament. Almost a third of the players in the field have won on the DP World at some point, which underlines the level of competition that he will face this week.

Among leading Indian players, DP World Tour Rookie of the Year Sharma and Bhullar -- who are frontrunners to make the Paris Cut, will be favourites to go deep into the tournament.

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It has been a while that an Indian has won the national championship with SSP Chawrasia claiming back-to-back titles at two different courses -- the challenging Delhi Golf Course in 2016 and Gary Player Course at the DLF Golf and Country Club in 2017.

Since then Matt Wallace (2018), Stephen Gallacher (2019) and Marcel Siem (2023) won the trophy with the tournament being cancelled for three years from 2020 to 2022 due to COVID-19.

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Ryder Cup winner Rasmus Hojgaard, who will make his debut, will be one of the favourites this week, while the other top international stars include Yannik Paul, Rafa Cabrera Bello, former Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts, Matteo Manassero and Edoardo Molinari.

Among Indians, Manu Gandas, Shourya Binu, Rashid Khan, Aman Raj, Yuvraj Sandhu, S Chikkarangappa, Karandeep Kochhar and Veer Ahlawat will be some exciting domestic players to watch out for during the week. 

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Published March 27th, 2024 at 16:10 IST