JACKSON, Miss. – Anirban Lahiri didn’t bother to book a flight home from the Dominican Republic last week. He made plans to catch a PGA Tour charter to the Sanderson Farms Championship despite the fact that he wasn’t in the field. Then he went out and shot 64 in the third round of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship to vault into contention and finished tied for eighth to qualify for this week’s event.
“I just had that feeling that if I go out there and do what I’m doing right now, I should get on that plane to Jackson,” Lahiri said. “It paid off.”
It could pay even bigger dividends after Lahiri posted a bogey-free 6-under 66 at the Country Club of Jackson to trail Charley Hoffman and Jimmy Walker by two strokes during the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship.
“Confidence is up,” Lahiri said. “I feel like I’m playing really well. I like this golf course. Last year was my first time here, and I really like the way it sets up. It reminds me a lot of the tracks I grew up playing in Asia. Probably not greens this quick, but similar to look at.”
— Anirban Lahiri (@anirbangolf) September 27, 2020
Lahiri, 33, a member of the 2015 and 2017 International Presidents Cup team, has been mired in a slump. He finished No. 178 in the FedEx Cup standings in 2018-19 and needed to record back-to-back top-10 finishes at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals to retain his PGA Tour status (which carried over to the 2020-21 season due to the pandemic).
The 2019-20 season wasn’t any better. He made only five of 13 cuts and hadn’t recorded a top-10 finish until last week in nearly two years (the 2018 Mayakoba Golf Classic). But Lahiri returned from his native India in August with renewed enthusiasm.
“I think the lockdown really helped me,” he said. “I was in India for five months. I left pretty much the Monday after Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational) to go play the Asian Open, and then we got locked in. They closed the borders down. So, I was there for a long time. Spent about 40 days straight with my coach, Vijay Divecha, before I came back out here, and I got back to the basics, undid a lot of the bad habits that had crept into the game and just tried to clean up the game, clean up the mind and just get really – just prepare. So far so good.”
Lahiri rolled in two birdies on his opening nine, including a 24-foot putt at No. 7, and added four birdies coming home, highlighted by a 32-foot putt at 12.
Lahiri has won 18 times around the world on the Professional Golf Tour of India, Asian Tour and European Tour, but hasn’t hoisted a trophy since the 2015 Hero Indian Open and remains winless on the PGA Tour. The last six winners of the Sanderson Farms Championship have all been first-time winners on Tour. Could Lahiri be lucky No. 7?
“I haven’t been in this situation for a long, long time, and I think it’s good,” Lahiri said. “It’s been a wake-up call, and so far I’m responding to it positively.”