Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Anirban Lahiri  (Getty Images)
Anirban Lahiri (Getty Images)

Anirban Lahiri is confident he can mount a strong defence of his title when he tees it up at the Hero Indian Open this week.

The World Number 52 is the highest ranked player in the field but will face a stiff challenge from the likes of four-time runner-up SSP Chawrasia, whom he beat in a play-off last year, three-time Major Championship winner Padraig Harrington and recent European Tour winners Marcus Fraser and Scott Hend.

Last year's triumph was a second win in three weeks for Indian Lahiri as he enjoyed a break-out season, but he has not been in the winner's circle since and is confident home comforts can help him taste victory again.

"It is always nice to come back to the Delhi Golf Club and defend my title," he said. "There are a lot of things that are keeping me really happy. Obviously, I'm feeling very comfortable overdosing on Indian food!

This is one of the events where you want to keep coming back and defending over your lifetime - Anirban Lahiri

"It is not something that I'm not used to because I've defended some titles in my career before. It is a good feeling to have and you know that it can be done under the pressure of what you need to do come Sunday. The whole exercise is to put yourself in the position again."

As well as being the top-ranked player in the field, Lahiri is also the top-ranked Indian in the Official World Golf Ranking, taking on the role of flag-bearer for a country establishing itself more and more on the international golfing stage.

The 28 year old admits that the extra pressure that comes with that responsibility could be a distraction, but he is proud to fly the flag for a nation of more than a billion citizens with the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on the horizon.

"It is a learning process for me," he said. "If you can manage your own expectations and if you can be positive yet realistic in terms of learning, getting better and playing consistently, the results will follow.

"I'm still learning to cope with that. When I'm home in India, there's not much chance for me to do what I need to do. But when I'm in America, I have more time to focus on my golf and less off the golf course. I'm learning to cope with it and I'm enjoying it.

"It is a massive privilege to represent your country and constantly be asked about India and golf in India.

"I'm certainly hopeful of being a contender at the Olympic Games. I have been playing well and I can compete at that level.

"Rio is obviously important not only for me and whoever joins me but it is important for golf in India. It is a great opportunity for us to do something in the sport that gets witnessed and showcased unlike any other golf event because it is the Olympics.

"Do I have medal hopes? Yes I do. I definitely think I can contend and hopefully get a medal for India."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T2WANG, JeunghunKOR18-13
T2LAHIRI, AnirbanIND18-13
T4QUE, AngeloPHI18-12
T4DA SILVA, AdilsonBRA18-12
T6HAVRET, GrégoryFRA18-10

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