Anirban Lahiri returns to The Players Championship this week for a fifth time but is still looking at making a meaningful mark at the event.
Lahiri got into the elite field at the $15 million showpiece following the withdrawal of former World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, who pulled out due an injury.
The opportunity to feature in the PGA Tour’s flagship tournament at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is not lost on Lahiri as he seeks to find some momentum to truly get his 2020-21 season into gear following a bunch of mixed results including a missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard last week..
Candid as usual, former Asian No. 1 Lahiri said, “It’s nice to be back. I didn’t realize it’s my fifth time back. I really like this golf course, I love the way it is set up and I feel like it’s one of those tracks where I can do really well. My record doesn’t show that though.
“The game has been a little patchy, up and down, but I think it’s trending back in the right direction. I have a couple of things that I’ve been working on and they seem to be falling into place, so it’s all about putting it together now.”
The 154-player field includes more than 100 PGA Tour winners and 48 of the top 50 each from the FedExCup points list and world ranking, including Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Bryson Dechambeau, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm. In Lahiri’s four appearances at TPC Sawgrass, he missed three cuts and finished T74 in 2019.
Lahiri has played at The Players both in May previously and now in March and sees a change in weather between the two periods. “Well, obviously three of my previous appearances were in May, with different weather. I played in 2019 in March. But it’s going to be slightly different in terms of the temperatures and the wind. If anything I think this is probably a better wind for my game style. So the one thing I haven’t done as well in the past is probably hit as many fairways as you need to.
“On the weekend, the greens are going to get really firm and fast, we all know that, so it’s going to be critical to come in from the short grass to really control the ball and that’s going to be my mine focus this week.“
Lahiri did not make it to the field at last year’s edition of The Players, and the event itself was cancelled after the first round and the Tour shut down for three months.
“I think it’s been a year now, a full circle pretty much since Covid struck the golfing world. For me it was, there was a lot of good that came out of it. I did get a lot done in India, I went back for the Hero Indian Open, which was the week after The Players last year. And that ended up being a good thing for me, because I got a lot of time at home with my coach and just managed to reassemble all the parts that were kind of getting a little rickety.”
On what it would take make a serious bid for the title, Lahiri elaborated, “I mean, all the guys who have won here previously have driven the ball really well and putted really well. I think those are the two things that are going to be really, really important. So you have to have all the departments firing and also that’s why it’s not so heavily dominated by someone who hits it miles or who has a really exceptional short game, you got to do everything good and you got to drive and putt well more than anything else.”