Adventures of rookie Lahiri before playing with World No. 3

November 13th, 2008 - 4:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Sentosa (Singapore), Nov 13 (IANS) Anirban Lahiri, playing in the company of Phil Mickelson in the opening round of the $5 million Barclay’s Singapore Open, attracted more than his share of attention despite a nine-over 80 that may well have ended his chances of staying on for the weekend.”It has been a whirlwind three days and here I am in the biggest tournament of my life, but I did not know if I was going to tee off till yesterday evening,” said the 21-year-old Lahiri, who was the last man to get into the main draw.

And that happened when Ian Poulter, the World No. 25, pulled out after learning his replacement driver would not arrive till Friday evening. Poulter’s driver was stolen in Shanghai last week during the HSBC Champions.

“On Monday I was third reserve and there seemed little chance of getting in and when I became the second reserve I quickly asked my travel agent to get me in with a ticket. Having got in on Tuesday, I got in nine holes to play and yesterday I was waiting all day and went to sleep in the afternoon. I was woken up by the call from Asian Tour office, who told me I was in and was due to play with Phil Mickelson at 7.38 a.m. That had me fully awake. I’ve never been more awake,” said a smiling Lahiri despite a disastrous day on the greens, where he needed 37 putts.

The adventure did not stop there.

“Since I had slept in the afternoon, I could not sleep early enough last night and I overslept this morning. I missed the 6 a.m. bus and just made the course, where I was not able to meet Phil at the range. I met him at the first tee,” added Lahiri, son of an army officer, who has lived virtually in all parts of India but is now settled in Bangalore.

As for Mickelson, what did he feel about Lahiri? “Obviously he hits the ball long. He had a couple of mishaps on the greens, but he will be fine. I am sure he will be ok soon and maybe tomorrow he will come back fine.”

On his play, the Asian Games silver medallist, who won the PGTI Tour School in India, said: “I hit the ball fine from the tee, but just couldn’t get things going on the greens. I had a four putt and a three putt and many other misses. I needed 37-38 putts and that’s an awful lot. The speed of the greens on the course was something like 12 and it was 9.5 on the practice green and I couldn’t adjust.”

Still at the end of the day, he was thrilled with the experience. “Phil has been an idol for me. But I was not playing him. I was not overawed. I tried to play my game, but my putting was off. Now that I have tasted this (a big event like $5 million tournament) I want to come back here again and again. I know I need to be patient.”

He also admitted to having learnt from the experience of playing with Mickelson and Thaworn Wiratchant, who has won 10 events on Asian Tour.

“Mickelson did not have his best day with his chipping, but with sheer experience he hung in and the way he kept chatting with his caddie, it showed he was still relaxed,” said the young rookie pro.

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