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Indian Golf 2014: Lahiri, Rashid rise; veterans struggle

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Anirban LahiriNew Delhi, Dec 20 (PTI) Success eluded them on the European and the PGA Tour but Indian golfers enjoyed a decent run in Asia with rising talents Rashid Khan and Anirban Lahiri sharing four titles between them even as some seasoned veterans struggled in a mixed year for the sport.

In a season during which senior pros such as Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal largely went under the radar with below par performances, Rashid and Lahiri made giant strides on the Asian Tour.

Lahiri, in fact, ended the year on a brilliant note by earning a European Tour card for the first time in his career after finishing inside the top-25 of the European Tour Q-School Final Stage.

Besides, Lahiri won the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters and the Venetian Macau Open in the year and also became the only Indian golfer to be inside the top-100 of world rankings.

The Bangalore-based golfer was reasonably well-placed at 64th in the world besides signing off second on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

The 27-year-old, who also made appearances at the British Open and the PGA Championship making the cut in both the prestigious Majors, was rewarded for his continuing good run with the Arjuna award.

Rashid, on the other hand, made the most of his debut season in Asia after missing out on the Tour card at the Qualifying School Final Stage in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The 23-year-old, who rose from being a caddie at the Delhi Golf Course, won the SAIL-SBI Open in Delhi before annexing the Chiangmai Golf Classic in Thailand to be among the rare success story for Indian golf this year.

Another golfer who did reasonably well for himself was Shiv Kapur. The Delhi pro pulled off the best Indian finish in a Major with his tied 23rd effort at the U S Open and became the only Indian to retain his European Tour card for 2015 by finishing 87th in the Race to Dubai this year. More PTI PM MRM

Only the top-110 in the Race to Dubai get an exemption for the following season on the European Tour.

But there was nothing noteworthy that the Indian golfers could manage on the Tours of Europe and the USA, where Atwal and Jeev had been India’s long-time flagbearers.

While Jeev struggled with various injuries, continuing his wretched run from last season, Atwal also endured a tough season on the Asian Tour, failing to win a single title.

In fact, it has been a downhill journey for the Orlando-based golfer ever since he lost his PGA Tour card in 2012.

The first Indian to ply his trade in the PGA Tour and win a tournament there (2010 Wyndham Championships), the 41-year-old has become a pale shadow of his past impressive self, competing without much success on the Asian Tour this season. But he did rediscover some of the lost touch with a few decent performances in the year-end tournaments.

Similar was the story of Jeev, made more painful by a string of injuries, which have massively dented his stellar career. Once the most successful Indian golfer on the European Tour with four titles, Jeev missed 15 cuts in all this year and failed to finish inside top 10 even once this year.

The Chandigarh-pro, at one time synonymous with Indian golf, is nursing injuries to his finger and shoulder. The bone spur in his right shoulder, in fact, requires surgery as per the doctors but the veteran has been avoiding it.

Such has been his decline that from being placed as high as 35th in the world in 2008, Jeev has fallen to 1091st right now and the standing is not expected to improve if he fails to regain full fitness.

Another big disappointment for Indian golf this year was the failure to win a single medal at the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea.

The Indians have a decent track record at the event, having won the men’s individual gold thrice. The men’s team had come back with a silver in the 2006 (Doha) and 2010 (Guangzhou) editions but failed to get on the podium this time.

In all, it was a mixed year for the sport during which the rise of Lahiri and Rashid held out hope for better results in 2015.

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