Silvis, Illinois, USA, 07-07-2021

Anirban Lahiri: I don't want to make the same mistakes I made in Rio

After the missed opportunities at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Anirban Lahiri wants to make sure he doesn’t repeat the same mistakes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Here are some extracts from his interview to the Indian media on Wednesday which was organized by the PGA Tour.

   

Q. You had sort of a big battle with COVID and it really traumatized you. At the same time before that also the form was kind of lean. Now you're on the road to recovery, your game is coming back slowly, you finished sixth in Texas. In that sense are you heading into a big stretch like the Olympics in a good frame of mind with a lot of that momentum that every athlete sort of craves for? And also they say that sometimes when the chips are down and your back is to the wall is when you get the best out of yourself. We've seen that quite a few times with you on the Asian Tour and other tours as well.

ANIRBAN LAHIRI: I'd like to believe that. But I think it's been a very strange 12, 13 months for everyone, of course, but even for me personally from a professional standpoint. I was in India two and a half months last year during the lockdown, which was a very important phase for me in my career and for my game to kind of reorganize myself. I came back and I played really well last fall in whatever opportunities I got.

Like you mentioned, in 2021 I got off to a poor start and kind of bled that form away. I had to work very hard after that to get my confidence back and I started playing much better. Like you mentioned, I finished fifth in Texas, and I was building that momentum, and then COVID struck.

It's been a case of me getting momentum, losing it, getting momentum, losing it and now I find myself on another sort of wave that I'm beginning to gather some momentum.

The idea is going to be to obviously stay fit and healthy but also to keep building that because you can't borrow momentum or generate it instantaneously. It takes a few weeks. It takes a few good results. Right now I'm feeling healthy and strong.

You know, the Olympics I feel was a blessing to me. It wasn't something that was on the agenda, but now that I have the opportunity, I don't want to make the same mistakes I made in Rio because I was injured in Rio. Now I have a few events building up to it, so I have a lot to do here and I'm just trying to build it, trying to keep my head down and stick to what I need to do.

Like you said, I do have my back against the wall. I think that brings the best out in me, so I'm hoping to continue that trend.

 

Q. How was the experience of the previous Olympics? What is the learning that you will take to the Tokyo Games? Also how is it in a way different from all the other competitions? What does it take to actually do well there?

ANIRBAN LAHIRI: I think the dynamics are very different. One is that you're playing a smaller field. There's only going to be 60 of us. The second thing is you're always going to play a golf course that you've never played before more than likely, unless the host nation is one of the stronger golfing nations.

When I play a PGA Tour event and finish fourth, it's still a good result, even a top-10 or a top-25 for that matter is a good finish. It's still something that I will take back with me and will use next week. But the biggest difference about the Olympic pressure is you don't get anything for coming fourth. It's a race to the podium and it's a bit of a sprint. Even though it's a four-day event, you have to be more aggressive. It's all or nothing because that's really what you are there for. It's very different from what we do week in and week out.

 

Q. I wanted to ask you, how's it been receiving the news on Udayan who you've played with a lot growing up, you have a lot in common from training under the same coach. What has the discussion been because he mentioned to us that you've been talking to each other a lot on the phone.

ANIRBAN LAHIRI: I'm really happy that India will be fully represented in the men's event. I’m very excited for Udayan and have been talking to him a lot. It's going to be a life-changing experience for him. I've known him for almost 15 years now and have seen him develop from when he was a junior into a very good amateur and now into a consistent professional on the PGTI. He’s a great player with great potential. As a senior, a friend and as someone who's gone through the process himself, I've tried to guide Udayan, I've just tried to keep him focused on what he needs to do and how he needs to play his best and try and stay away from all the other distractions that come with an event like this.

Hopefully I can correct what I felt I couldn't do last time and obviously Mane being with me, it'll be nice. Also having my dear friend, my little brother Chikkarangappa S caddying for me is also something that I'm looking forward to. We'll have three of us there, all motivated with the same goal which is to bring glory to our country.

 

Q. This time there will be several restrictions at the Olympics due to COVID. How does it affect the athletes?

ANIRBAN LAHIRI: You know, I think it's our own choice how we respond to that. It's very simple. In a way I think it's probably a good thing for many sportspersons because your first Olympic experience can be very overwhelming.

It's obviously a very special experience, no doubt, just putting on your India tricolor track suit and walking into a stadium and watching other Indian athletes compete and try their heart out and cheering them on is a big part of it.

Unfortunately, to a large extent that's going to be missing this year. But the way I look at it is, given what we need to do, it's going to be around a 90-minute drive from the Olympic Village to the golf course. I mean, I'm there for precisely seven, seven and a half days. Really it doesn't give us too many windows of opportunity to do anything else.

To a large extent, all these restrictions - I won't even say restrictions, it's a framework. This is a framework within which these games can go on safely, and you have to respect that given everything that's going on.

You know, whatever the framework, whatever the rules are, you respect them and you follow them and you try and use that in a positive way. That's how I'm looking at it.

 

Q. The second question was regarding your game right now. It's a really -- we can see a lot of difference in your driving. That was something you were really struggling with last year even, and this year your driving has been on the ball. You've been driving the ball really well. A player really knows when he's playing well and when he's close to doing something extraordinary. Do you feel like that, because your putting seems to be all right right now?

ANIRBAN LAHIRI: My driving has been the cornerstone whenever I've played well. If you look at how I played last year in the fall where I played consistently, the one aspect of my game that stood out was actually my driving. So I know that whenever that part of my game is in good shape, it sets me up to actually do damage on the golf course.

Last week I struggled a lot with my wedges, which is usually something that I'm good at, so early this week, yesterday and the day before yesterday, I put in quite a few hours specifically working on -- between 70 to 150 hours. Even this week at the John Deere Classic you're going to hit a lot of wedges. It's another golf course where unless the conditions are severe, you're going to get a lot of birdies, much like last week.

I'm just trying now to tighten up the game. There are lots of good things happening, but there's enough average things happening for the score to kind of be average. I'm trying to clean it up and take inventory of some of the departments that let me down, especially last week.

These are some of the things that happen when you play two, three, four weeks in a row, and that's not something I've done in a while post-COVID. My schedule was one week on, one off, one week on, one off. Now that I find myself in a three, four-week stretch I think it's actually easier for me to build that momentum that I spoke about earlier.

I think this is the best way for me to kind of keep improving and keep building on the good things and kind of cleaning up on the not-so-good things. Like you said, you never expect things to happen when extraordinary things happen, but you can always see a trend that this person is doing the right things and I feel like I am. I'm just going to continue doing that and allow things to happen.

 

Q. What about your schedule?

ANIRBAN LAHIRI: To be able to perform my best, I will have to miss the 3M Open, which is the week before the Olympics. Thankfully there's no tournament during the week of competition at the Olympics. That would have been much harder if that was the case because I have some work to do to keep my card here on the PGA Tour. But what I've done is I've added the Barbasol Championship to my schedule, which is next week, which I was not planning to play, instead of the 3M. So I'm playing this week at the John Deere Classic and I'm playing the Barbasol next week. I will not be playing the 3M Open.

As of now, I have my ticket returning back to Palm Beach, Florida, from the Olympics because I feel like I'm playing well enough. Given the opportunities I have this week and the next, if I can play half decent and play the way I feel like I'm playing, I should be in a position in the FedExCup standings where I don't necessarily have to return back to Reno to play the Barracuda Championship. But I definitely will be playing the Wyndham Championship to finish the year.

As of now, I plan to play the Barbasol Championship and the Barracuda Championship if need be on my return from Japan.

 

Source: PGA Tour



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