Anirban Lahiri came agonizingly close to winning a first PGA Tour title, finishing behind Australia’s Cameron Smith by just a single stroke at The Players Championship in Florida on Monday but was relieved to be back in contention at the highest level after a tough time recently.

“I’m just relieved. I’ve gone through two years of playing horrible. The last time I contended in a field this good was at Memorial maybe, five years ago, or even that was a back-door second. I shot 7-under on Sunday. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in this position in a quality field like this,” said Lahiri, according to a press release from Eurosport India.

Lahiri was bidding to become the second Indian after Arjun Atwal to win on the PGA Tour.

“I want to win. I’ve been here seven years, haven’t gotten over the line yet. That’s definitely a monkey I want to get off my back. Today was as good an opportunity as any.”

The 34-year-old had a one-shot lead going into the final round at the TPC Sawgrass course in Florida. But a closing 3-under 69 saw him finish one shy of Smith, who won his fifth career title and second of the season to hand Lahiri a first runner-up finish since the Indian’s run at the 2017 Memorial Tournament.

Smith charged to victory at the PGA Tour’s weather-disrupted Players Championship on Monday, carding a closing six-under-par 66 to win by one shot.

The 28-year-old Queenslander roared into contention on a congested final day at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida with five birdies in his opening six holes.

It was Smith’s second victory of 2022 following victory at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January, and was made even sweeter by the presence of his mother Sharon and sister Mel to witness the victory.

Smith said he had not seen his family for more than two years until recently due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

“It’s really cool to have them here,” Smith said, his voice cracking with emotion. “My main priority was just to hang out with them.

“Golf was second for these few weeks, so it’s nice to see them and nice to get a win for them.”

Smith’s final round 66 left him on 13 under 265, one ahead of Lahiri, who shot a closing 69. England’s Paul Casey was third on 11 under while Kevin Kisner was fourth on 10 under.

Golf: India’s Anirban Lahiri finishes close second at the prestigious Players Championship

The second-place finish pushed him up to 45th position on the FedExCup after picking up 330 points, and earning a cheque of $2.18 million.

“I guess at one point on 16, I thought it was kind of out of reach, but then again, birdieing 17, Cam kind of opened the door. I gave it a good go. Made some mistakes that I could have avoided, but that’s golf. I picked up a few shots too, so I’m happy. This is a really positive week for me going forward,” said Lahiri.

“I hit such a good drive (on 18). The ball was above my feet, which is like a hook or a draw lie. It was pretty simple really and I just needed to stand pretty much where my ball ended up, stand there and just make a swing and let the slope and the wind do the job for me. Like a few other things today, I didn’t turn through it, and I kind of hung it out a little bit and it didn’t come back. That was disappointing, because I couldn’t have put myself in a better position to actually.”

The Australian had an impressive showing on the final day, with 10 birdies against three bogeys through 17 holes but later opened the door with what turned out to be a winning bogey after finding water on the 18th hole with his second shot. After making a double bogey on the par 3 8th hole, Lahiri fought back with a 14-foot eagle conversation on 11 and a gutsy 13-foot birdie on the famous par 3 17th hole to stay in the title frame. Needing a birdie on 18 to force a playoff, he blocked his approach shot to miss the green and then left his chip short of the flag to force extra time.

Although his final approach shot failed to find the green, one area of improvement which Lahiri was extremely pleased about was his iron play, which saw him ranked 13th in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green at The Players.

“It’s huge, because when you go through such a lean period for such a long time, you start asking yourself, man, was that a flash in the pan? What are you doing? You haven’t played good in so long. Your belief takes a hit, so this for me is - I’m going to re-cement the foundation and work upwards from here.

“Two weeks ago, Honda Classic week, strokes gained off the tee was 29th, around the green 4th, putting 15th, 144th approach to green. My only goal coming in was to change that, and I did. It was a very successful week,” added the Indian, who added 3.5 grams of weight to his irons at the start of the week.