Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri said he wasn’t expecting to qualify for the Olympics given his below par performance this year but now wants to make it count by returning with a medal from the Tokyo Games.
Lahiri on Tuesday made the cut for the Olympics at the 60th spot, the last quota available as per the International Golf Federation rankings.
“It was a big surprise, I wasn’t expecting it,” said Lahiri, who is preparing for this week’s PGA TOUR stop at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands, Connecticut.
“Even though I’ve earned it, I don’t feel like I’ve really earned it as I know how far below my potential I’ve played this year. It’s a gift and an opportunity, so why would I throw it away.”
India was eligible for one spot and Lahiri qualified being the highest-placed golfer from the country at the 340th position.
“I know what it is to be an Olympian as I’ve done it before (in Rio) and I don’t want to be just an Olympian. I want to win a medal, I want to do something that makes a difference,” said the 33-year-old.
“I know winning a PGA TOUR event will do that but winning a medal would even do more. I do have a certain responsibility towards the game and my country.”
The former Asian No. 1 finished a lowly 57th in Rio while playing with an injury. But recently, there have been signs of some good form returning following a recent T-25 finish at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.
That has made him optimistic of his chances at the Olympics to be held at the Kasumigaseki Country Club from July 29 to August 1.
“When I first found out, I called my wife and she asked what do I want to do now. I told her how can I not go? How can I not represent my country in the biggest sporting event in the world?
“This is why I play the game ... and to have the opportunity to represent your country, and not just the representation as I feel like I’m playing really well.
“I feel I’m close to playing my best golf right now and for a lot of reasons, it makes sense for me. It means everything for me to go,” said Lahiri, whose last win came at home at the Hero Indian Open in 2015.
After news emerged that he had squeezed into the top-60 list following several 11th hour withdrawals, Lahiri was inundated with wishes and messages from fellow golfers and friends from back home.
“I’ve gotten so many messages from kids who are playing the game now, saying ‘we’re so glad you’re in, we’ve always looked up to you and go make us proud’. Everybody has different motivations as to why they do this for a living and a large part is supporting yourself, family and personal achievements.
“There’s also a huge aspect for me personally that comes from everything that I’ve gotten from the sport and all the love and support I’ve got from my country. I’m thrilled and excited. It is definitely something I wanted to do,” said Lahiri.
This week, he will make his fourth appearance at the Travelers Championship, with a tied ninth recorded in 2018 and a share of 17th place in 2017 being his best results.
“I still have a lot of opportunities including this week to do what I need to do on TOUR (to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs). It’s been a pretty tough year for me,” said Lahiri, who will play with Bo Van Pelt and Harry Higgs in the afternoon wave.
“I got off to a good start in the fall and lost the momentum in the West coast and started building back up and playing well with a good week in Texas (T5) and then I had Covid and had it pretty bad for four weeks,” he said.
Lahiri, who is currently 118th on the FedExCup rankings, is now fighting to stay inside the top-125 to qualify for the lucrative FedExCup Playoffs in August and more importantly, retain his TOUR card for next season.
He has featured on the PGA TOUR since 2016.
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