ANIRBAN LAHIRI - Lahiri’s 5-wood that cut deep into the heart of Europe’s EurAsia Cup dream
Looking at it just from the cold and unbiased lens of statistics, the inaugural EurAsia Cup, held in the last week of March 2014 at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club in Malaysia, should have been a virtual cakewalk for Europe.
The lowest ranked European player was Thorbjorn Olesen, a captain’s pick by Miguel Angel Jimenez, at No66 on the OWGR. On the other hand, only one Asian player was inside the top-66 of the world rankings – playing captain Thongchai Jaidee (No49).
World No14 Graeme McDowell was the highest ranked player in the tournament, but all eyes were on Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. The world No23 was just coming off a sensational win at the 2013 Turkish Airlines Open in a field that included Tiger Woods. More recently, he had dazzled the fans a month earlier with his magical shot-making skills en route to the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, and his mesmerizing battle with Jason Day in the decider.
However, the European side, packed with superstars, got a taste of their own medicine they have been dishing out to the Americans for many years in the Ryder Cup. And quite aptly, it was Anirban Lahiri, son of an army doctor, who was at the forefront in handing them the bitter pill.
Friday’s fourballs were a disaster for Asia as they lost all five matches. It was slightly better in Saturday’s foursomes, with Lahiri and Siddikur Rahman beating Joost Luiten and Dubuisson as Asia closed the gap to 7-3.
With Europe needing just 3.5 points in 10 singles matches, very few could have imagined the drama that unfolded on Sunday.
Captain Jaidee felt Jimenez would send out his best players early and middle, and that is how he planned his singles line-up. Lahiri was desperately hoping to draw Dubuisson, and as luck would have it, that’s how it panned out for the crucial sixth match of the day.
Europe won the first match of the day and they needed just two more wins and a halve to secure the EurAsia Cup. Jaidee served a huge point for his team by taking down McDowell and Kiradech Aphibarnrat downed Thomas Bjorn. At 8-5, the results of the next three-four matches were going to be crucial.
Trading blow after blow and giving nothing away to each other, Lahiri and Dubuisson came down the 16th hole like two prized fighters. They were all square and at this late stage, it would have taken just one inspired moment of genius or madness to tilt the balance of the match.
On the par-5 16th, the madness came first. Both players pulled their tee shot to the adjacent fairway.
When Lahiri reached his ball, it did not look good, especially because of the row of trees that line the Glenmarie fairways. He needed to conjure something that gave him a chance for birdie, because Dubuisson seemed in a much better position 20 yards ahead of him.
Everyone thought Lahiri would chip out safely, but incredibly, he decided to have a go at the green. He took out his 5-wood, gave it a massive swipe, sending the ball soaring over the trees and cutting it all the way to the green to be left with a six-footer for an eagle. The Indian ace had pulled off an impossible shot.
“I had to cut it about 25 yards to get to the front edge, but it had to be struck perfectly to get it up and around the trees with enough speed and power to get home. Cuts usually go shorter so I had to hit it higher on the face to keep the spin down while still cutting it an eventual 30 yards to fly it all the way to the flag in the back right corner. I suppose the adrenaline helped,” said Lahiri.
“Victor had a rescue in his hand staring at a similar shot and he flared his short right into the deep rough. I still remember the look of incredulity on his face after I hit my shot. I just knew I had won the match at that moment.”
Lahiri made his eagle on the 16th to go 1-up and then won the 17th to seal his win. That proved crucial as Asia fought back in stunning fashion that afternoon, eventually tying it 10-10 and sharing the trophy with Europe.
By Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf)
Picture: Asian Tour
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