An opening two-under 70 at Whistling Straits followed by a six-birdie 67 to conclude the storm-delayed second round on Saturday also strengthened Lahiri’s burgeoning belief that he is good enough to compete with the game’s very best.
“Playing at the Presidents Cup would mean the world to me,” Lahiri, 28, told Reuters after rocketing up the PGA Championship leaderboard into a tie for fourth at seven-under 137, four strokes off the lead.
“Growing up you watch events like the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, and last year I was fortunate enough to be a part of the inaugural EurAsia Cup, and part of a team that came from a whitewash on day one to level it at 10-10 against Europe.
“It’s feeling that does not compare. I’ve won several times now in Asia and Europe and it’s a different kind of thrill when you don’t play for yourself.”
As things stand, Lahiri would be an automatic selection for the Internationals team to take on holders the United States in Incheon, South Korea from Oct 8-11.
The leading 10 players in the points standings on Sept. 7 will qualify for the Presidents Cup, and captain Nick Price will then add his two wildcard picks the following day.
PGA TOUR ASPIRATIONS
Lahiri, 28, a two-time winner on the European Tour this year who has set his sights on securing a U.S. PGA Tour card, is ninth in the standings and would all but lock up his spot with a good finish on Sunday.
“I am hitting it good and I feel I’m playing well enough to be playing on the Presidents Cup team,” said the Bangalore resident, who birdied four of his last seven holes at Whistling Straits to soar up the second-round leaderboard.
“I just need to keep playing well. When I played for Asia last year, it was massive. At the Presidents Cup, you’re playing for the Internationals which is pretty much the rest of the world if you take Europe out of it, so that would be huge.”
Lahiri, who won his first European Tour title at the Malaysian Open in February before adding a second later that month on home soil at the Indian Open, initially struggled for form when he switched his focus to the PGA Tour.
However, the world number 53 has played in all of golf’s elite events this season — the four majors and the World Golf Championships events – and he now believes he belongs in that company.
“I came over here to the U.S. and I initially tried to do things differently, I didn’t stick with what I’d done when I’ve played my best in the past,” said Lahiri, a seven-times winner on the Asian Tour where he leads the order of merit this season.
“But I’ve learned from that and I’ve gone back to my old routine, just sticking to my own strengths and working with those. I think it’s enough to win out here, and that’s where the belief comes from.
“I feel like I can compete and it’s good to have evidence of that this week at Whistling Straits.”
(Editing by Andrew Both)