Anirban Lahiri likes to say he has unfinished business at the Presidents Cup. So he was deeply disappointed Wednesday when International captain Nick Price read off five Internationals foursomes teams and Lahiri wasn’t part of the lineup.
Then again, he’s waited two years for his chance at redemption. What’s one more day?
As a Presidents Cup rookie in South Korea two years ago, Lahiri was part of a key late match that had a huge impact on the outcome. He was all square with American Chris Kirk down the 18th fairway, and was the player with the considerable advantage on the final green. Kirk’s ball was 15 feet away for birdie; Lahiri had a 4-footer.
Kirk made his putt, and Lahiri’s putt to halve the singles match caught the edge of the hole and spun out. Golf can be a cold beast. (“That’s golf. It’s cruel sometimes,” he said.) The U.S. collected a point that it wasn’t really expecting, and it proved pivotal. When Bill Haas defeated Sangmoon Bae, 2 up, the U.S. owned a 15 ½-14 ½ victory, and the Internationals had one more disheartening result in a long line of them. Their record in these matches plummeted to 1-9-1.
Nick Price, in his third stint as International captain, used one of his picks for this week’s event at Liberty National to add Lahiri, a winner of 18 international titles and the first player to represent India in the matches. He figures Lahiri’s experience will serve him well, and still believes the words that he spoke to Lahiri and fellow International rookie Bae in the team room in South Korea on that Sunday night two years ago: Never again will you ever feel such immense pressure on the golf course.
“It was obviously very disappointing for both Sangmoon and me,” Lahiri said. “It’s a team effort, and you don’t want to be part of a losing team at any point of time. Everybody does their best, but sometimes guys have great results and sometimes guys don’t. You always want to be one of those who is contributing.
“Whether it was Sangmoon or myself or even Jason (Day, who went 0-4-1), we were all sitting there saying ‘We haven’t pulled our weight,’ and ‘We should have done more.’ ”
Lahiri, who finished 0-3, is looking forward to his second chance. He didn’t have his greatest season in 2016-17, playing 23 events around the globe without a victory, his best finish being a tie for second at The Memorial in June. He missed eight cuts, which was a high number for him. Not since 2010 had he missed so many.
But he hopes to find a spark this week across that beautiful Manhattan Skyline. He’ll get his work in during the morning on Thursday, cheer on his team in the afternoon foursomes, and be ready to go on Friday, when he’ll likely appear in the four-ball session.
“I think our team is really up for this,” he said Wednesday. “I’m just waiting, when my opportunity comes, to go out there and be ready.”
Lahiri, 30, grew up playing team sports, competing in soccer and cricket, and loves the idea of taking part in team golf. This time around, he just wants the results to be better.
“The core of that team is still the same going into this event, and I think that is really good,” Lahiri said. “The core guys feel it. They know it can be done, they know how close we were, and how close we came. The lines are so fine now. It’s anybody’s ballgame, and that’s a belief that’s very important to have going into the week.”
Price said when he first served as captain in 2013, he struggled to find ways to motivate his International side. Certainly he faces different challenges than his counterpart, Steve Stricker, whose 12 U.S. players compete under a single flag.
Price has players from eight countries and deals with different languages, different cultures and different needs. He knows this much: Whatever language is spoken, Price’s players all are fierce competitors and proven winners. And none of them care for losing.
Lahiri, who has a base in Jupiter, Fla., as he plays in the U.S., adds, “And I think the one thing that is the common thread between all of us is that we’ve all left home to be here (U.S.). This is our adopted home, but this isn’t ‘home’ home. We’ve all had to struggle in a way that a lot of our opposition team hasn’t had to do.
“We understand what that is, and what it takes to overcome barriers, because we’ve all overcome barriers. And I think there’s so much that we have in common. It may not be a language or a national anthem or a flag, but I think we are all doing something that, in essence, is exactly the same. … That is something that all of us draw strength from in our personal lives. So why not go out and draw on that when we play against the U.S.?”