LYTHAM - India’s Anirban Lahiri will count upon his meditation to help him make a successful debut at the British Open when play begins on Thursday (today).
“I will stick to my meditation and stay in the moment, not get carried away, and focus on what I need to do,” Lahiri said.
“It will play a critical role. Times of great highs and low, the mind gets muddled and unclear. I have to rely on meditation as it will only do me good.”
Lahiri has been meditating for the past few years, saying his longest session was three hours, while he spends about 20 minutes each day when he is at a tournament. The key benefit is simply staying in the moment, Lahiri said.
“The benefit that I have derived from my meditation is that I’m able to stay in the present,” Lahiri said. “That is what everyone talks about, hit one shot at a time and we all wonder how to do it.
“Meditation has taught me to block out the scoreboard, what the group in front is doing or how far back or ahead I am. All those things get sidetracked and the focus comes back to what I need to do. That’s what meditation helps me to do.
“It is like a process, like an exercise. You can be in that state during the round depending on how strong your practices are. If you can put yourself in that state, you can go through 18 holes in your own world without being affected by what is around you. That is what really helps.”
Lahiri arrived on Saturday and found he relished the tough conditions synonymous with The Open.
“I am enjoying the weather so far,” he said. “A lot of people here whom I’ve met are not comfortable in this condition but I’m feeling at home. I expected the course as tough as it has been set up.
“I’m feeling good. I’m hitting it good. I’m happy with my equipment set up. I’m feeling very comfortable.”
Lahiri visited Royal Lyutham and St Annes in late May for several practice rounds but feels the difference of tournament week.
“The atmosphere is beautiful,” he said. “People come out here despite the rain and cold. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m hoping I can put in a good performance to make it better.”
Lahiri was to have been the only Indian player in the field of 157 but Jeev Milkha Singh joined him by winning the Scottish Open last Sunday.
Filipino goes solo at Open in first links test
Meanwhile, Filipino Juvic Pagunsan, the number one player on the Asian Tour, hopes his decision to travel alone for his major debut will reap rewards when the 141st British Open starts on Thursday (today).
Pagnusan, the first man from the Philippines to win the Order of Merit last year, has no family or friends to cheer him on at Royal Lytham and St Annes but that suits him just fine.
“I find that travelling alone for tournaments is much better as there will be no distractions,” Pagunsan said. “You just think about yourself and don’t have to think about your friends. It will be easier for me to focus on the tournament.”
Pagnusan, whose caddie will be a friend’s brother who lives in England, was greeted by heavy rain and wind when he played his first practice round on Monday, his first taste of links golf.
“So much rain on Monday and I couldn’t really see the golf course — it was a good introduction to the Open for me,” he said.
“It was very difficult. The winds kept changing. I didn’t really like it as it was so difficult. You have to keep the clubs dry all the time. The course is wet. Bunkers here are different too.
“But it’s really nice being here. I will be trying my best.”
Pagunsan, 34, is aiming first and foremost about simply trying to reach the weekend.
“There are so many good players here,” he said. “However, I feel like I’m hitting the ball good. I’ll try to make the cut first. I want to play in the weekend.”
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods is swinging better and is comfortable on Royal Lytham’s greens, but how well he sorts out the wind at the 141st British Open could determine if he breaks a four-year major win drought.
World No. 4 Woods, a 14-time major champion who is chasing the all-time record 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus, has won three events this year and a US PGA-best $4.2 million.
He likes what he has seen of Royal Lytham so far.
“I have a good feel for the greens and the pace,” Woods said. “The golf course is soft for a links course, but certainly by no means soft.”
But Woods arrives without the consistency or the dominating aura he once enjoyed, having missed his second cut of the year, and only the ninth of his career, at the Greenbrier Classic two weeks ago.
Woods has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open and it was only four months ago that he snapped a 17-month win drought.
“I think Tiger would admit that his form hasn’t been as good over the last few years,” said World No. 1 Luke Donald of England. “He hasn’t been as dominant in the majors as he was.”
The 36-year-old American has also worked on swing changes with coach Sean Foley to ease the pressure on his left knee, which has undergone surgery four times, and is finally seeing the efforts reach fruition.
“I like the things that Sean and I are working on and they are starting to solidify,” Woods said. “I’m just trying to get better each and every day.”
Woods has won three British Open titles, in 2000 and 2005 at St. Andrews and in 2006 at Hoylake, where he never used a driver. This week’s tricky layout offers 206 bunkers and breezes can blow away title hopes for any contender.
“Here you have so many different options and a five-degree wind change changes an entire golf course and your entire game plan,” Woods said.
“Everything is magnified. On the ground if you hit a draw versus a fade, it doesn’t just go five yards further, it can go possibly 30, 40, 50 yards further. This is all something you’re trying to figure out.”
Woods will be pulling out his driver and 3-wood at times this week but trajectory and club selection will be critical as mistakes bring dense rough and pot bunkers into play with score-soaring results.
“Shotmaking creativity is paramount when you play a links golf course,” Woods said.
The past 15 majors have been won by 15 different players, a fact other top players say shows the difficulty of what Woods has done.
“That speaks for what an amazing run he went on and he’s still continuing to try and do,” Donald said. “Just speaks to how difficult it is to win majors.”
“Nobody thought we would have the same kind of dominance we had in the game that Jack Nicklaus provided in his career, and then along came Tiger,” said US star Phil Mickelson, a four-time major champion.
“I don’t see anybody in the game today playing at that level that he has played at and is currently starting to play at again. But you just never know.”
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who won his first major at last year’s US Open, appreciates the toll it took Woods to simply contend consistently.
“It’s an unbelievable feat even just to win two weeks in a row,” McIlroy said. “Mentally that takes a lot out of you. To play like that over such a prolonged period of time was very impressive.”