Anirban Lahiri's growth story in professional golf continues this week as he tees up at the 96th PGA Championships, his second Major of the year and the one he was mentally preparing for when the British Open suddenly happened in between.
Lahiri, current leader on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, fell ill during the British Open and missed the cut despite a brave effort on the second day, when he played with fever. He now desperately wants to make up for that. He got chicken pox and could not get practice for almost 10 days and got back to hitting balls only just before he left for Valhalla.
"I came well ahead of time to get used to the place and the course. I first played on Saturday and then again a couple of rounds. I'm super excited and really looking forward to doing well. I have just recovered and I'm slowly getting back to practice. Hopefully, I can put in a memorable performance at Valhalla," said Lahiri.
"I was feeling quite jet lagged but I'm feeling better after a good rest and I'm now in tournament mode, having seen and played the course a couple of times," he added. "The course is a Jack Nicklaus course. So, it is like the courses we are used to playing in Asia but obviously the grasses are totally difficult so it is something which I will need to adjust to."
On Thursday, Lahiri tees off in the company of Bill Haas, whose five PGA Tour wins include a Tour Championship in 2011 and the AT&T National last year. The third player is John Senden, who has two PGA Tour wins. They will start from the 10th tee.
It will be close to midnight back home, but he does not have to think too much about that, for his wife is going to be here as also his coach, Vijay Divecha, who has played a big role in the growth of Lahiri.
"It is always nice to have him around. He calms me down and helps focus on golf," says Lahiri.
Lahiri maintains, "Playing with the leading players at various events, in Asia and elsewhere and more recently even practice rounds with the likes of Martin Kaymer, has given me a lot of confidence and I have learnt a lot. The level out there in Europe or US, where I have hardly played, is so high and that one learns a lot."
A lot has been said and written about his leaning towards meditation for calmness and controlling on-course frustrations that are part and parcel of professional golf.
But experience and maturity, too, have taught Lahiri to deal with mental hurdles regarding course layouts, weather conditions and even his physical conditions, like playing with fever, at the Open last month.
"Each bit adds to up something meaningful in the long run," he says.
The year 2014 has been significant for Lahiri, both on and off the course. He won his first title on foreign soil – in Indonesia – and he is leading the Money List, too. He also got married to his girlfriend, Ipsa.
Now, doing well at the Majors and finishing on top of the Money List would be two obvious goals, but he also yearns to get into the top-50 as the first big step towards gaining an entry into the world of elite golfers, who play at each of the four Majors every year.
When Lahiri tees up on Thursday, he will become only the third Indian golfer after Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal to play two Majors in a single year. Jeev played all four Majors in 2007, making the cut at Masters and US Open and missing the cut at British Open and PGA. Jeev played at least two Majors in 2008, 2009 and 2012. Atwal played and missed the cut at Masters and PGA in 2011. In 2008, Jeev achieved the first and only top-10 by an Indian at a Major in PGA.