The cash registers are ringing. And how. When it comes to earnings, it’s been one heck of a year for Anirban Lahiri. In the 2021-22 season on the PGA Tour, Lahiri made over $3 million with the chunk of that coming from his second-place finish at the Player’s Championship and two Top-10 finishes at the Well Fargo Championship and Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour. All three events took place earlier this year. In September 2022, the PGA Tour’s season coming to a close, Lahiri—who drew the curtains on his PGA Tour membership by opting to play the LIV Golf Tour—hit the jackpot on his very first outing on the new circuit. The Indian pro lost in the three-man playoff at the Boston Invitational, but that second-place finish brought with it a $1.5 million bounty. Lahiri shot a 6-under 64 in the third round (final round in the Tour’s 54-hole format) that included a narrowly missed eagle putt which would have ensured a one-stroke victory. “It was really nice to just buckle down on that back nine and play some golf. Really proud of the shots I hit. A little unlucky but sometimes it goes that way,” Lahiri said after his performance.
It wasn’t Lahiri’s biggest career paycheck: that would be the $2.18 million he took for his second place at the Players. But while the Players Championship—considered the unofficial ‘Fifth Major,’ for its rarefied field and level of competition—is a one-of-its-kind event on the PGA Tour, the Boston Invitational is just another tournament on the LIV Golf Tour. And there are plenty more of those to come.
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Lahiri is currently the top-ranked Indian golfer in the world but did not accrue any ranking points for his performance. The LIV Golf Tour’s events have not yet been accorded any points by the Official World Golf Rankings. Given the very public acrimony between professional world golf tours right now vis a vis the ‘upstart’ Tour, it’ll be interesting to see how things progress on that front.
Away from all the politics in the governance of the game, things got nicely underway last week at the DP World Tour’s DS Automobiles Open. The action in Europe is always such a delight to watch, not in the least because of the absolutely top-notch and understated folks in the commentary box. Sample this: Rory McIlroy’s 4-iron approach to a Par-5 during his second round, was very imaginatively described as “…landing like a butterfly with sore feet!” The Irishman is exuding confidence after his FedEx Championship triumph: just go online and have a look at a couple of green-side flop shots he hit in the second round of the ongoing DS Automobiles Open. Swinging at driver speeds and sending the ball just 10 feet or so. And facing water on the other side. Imperious stuff.
Talking of commentators, things are coming alive on our very own PGTI. Erstwhile playing pros Shaurya Singh and Rahul Bajaj have been livening up the proceedings with wit and insider knowledge from their days on Tour. The PGTI’s events are being broadcast live on Youtube—while the programming still leaves much to be desired, it’s a big improvement from the past. And that is bound to buttress the Tour’s attraction for new sponsors. Grant Thornton has just announced its support for a new event that will be hosted by none other than Kapil Dev and played at the DLF G&CC. Hopefully things will start looking up for the PGTI with more sponsors and players coming into its fold.
The players are certainly not pulling any punches. Literally. The circuit at home has been buzzing with news of a new fitness regimen. Your columnist has not been able to confirm which players have donned boxing gloves but there’s no ambiguity regarding the origin of this new fad. It all comes from PGA Tour Player Byeong Hun An’s astonishing improvement when it comes to power and swing speed. After losing his PGA TOUR status for the first time in five years, the Korean rededicated himself to off-course fitness. Besides including 18-hour fasting (yet another wildly popular fad) An took to the punching bag to work on improving mobility of his hands, and his golf swing speed. “Boxing is much more fun as a workout. That’s why we added that into my routine and it kind of increased my hand speed and helped with my upper body movements,” said An, who has three career runner-up finishes on the PGA TOUR. At the ongoing Fortinet Championship—his first event back as a PGA TOUR card holder after spending the past nine months on the Korn Ferry Tour—An has averaged 337 yards from off the tee to rank number 1 in driving distance.
Given the challenges that professional golfers face: living out of a suitcase, traveling to a new place week after week, dealing with the constant pressure of making the cut at every event, and picking themselves up after getting their teeth knocked out every now and then…it’s a no brainer. Boxing apparently works the fast twitch fibres like no other cardio regimen. It probably works as well on the mind too. Everyone needs a punching bag once in a while.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game