There’s been a predictable two-step process for many of the high-profile players who join have joined LIV Golf: (1) sign the contract, (2) explain to the golf world why you did it.
We’ve heard all manner of reasons: more time to stay home with family and friends, an opportunity to “grow the game,” the appeal of an unconventional format and team element and yes, of course, the guarantee of “generational wealth,” no matter how you perform.
New LIV signee Anirban Lahiri, the 92nd-ranked player in the world and runner-up at this year’s Players Championship, cited a few of those reasons in an interview this week with the Hindustan Times. Joining the league, he said, will help “correct my work-life balance,” noting that “it’s a very lonely life out there as a top athlete.” He also said that “team golf is extremely exciting, and a lot can be done around the right kind of teams,” just as has happened, he said, with Indian Premier League cricket, which since launching controversially in 2007 has become the most-attended cricket league in the world.
But Lahiri, who is from Pune, in western India, and now lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., also offered another less commonly-cited motive for his move to LIV: He believes more time at or near his homeland will improve his game.
Lahiri has worked with Vijay Divecha, one of India’s preeminent golf coaches since 2002. Historically, they have synched up every couple of months, with Divecha visiting Lahiri in the U.S. between Tour stops or Lahiri jetting back to India for a check-in. During the pandemic, when Divecha was unable to travel outside of India, teacher and student were limited to virtual lessons. The arrangement, Lahiri said, has been less than optimal.
“I am a player who needs regular maintenance of his swing,” he said. “Whenever I don’t see my coach for a protracted period of time, small mistakes tend to creep into my game. There can be something as small as bad posture, but that obviously has a big effect on how I play.
“I had felt at times these past few years that my golf had plateaued. I felt I wasn’t playing to my potential, which is almost as bad as a feeling as when you’re just playing badly. Obviously in today’s day and age we can have video sessions, etc. But I am a very feel-oriented player and I need regular physical intervention from Vijay. Every time we have worked together I have played better when we have gone back.
“I am looking forward to regular sessions with him. And I absolutely believe that this, along with an improved social, life is going to wonders for my game.”
Lahiri has been ranked as high as 33rd in the world. He has won seven times on the Asian Tour and played on two Presidents Cup teams. But he has never won on the PGA Tour. In his last seven PGA Tour starts of 2022, he missed the cut five times and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Beyond more regular counseling from his coach, Lahiri said more time closer to home will also get him in a better headspace. Living half a world away from his roots has been trying on him. After his runner-up finish at the Players, Lahiri said he had to wait four months until he could get back home to celebrate.
If things don’t work for Lahiri on LIV’s big-money tour, he said he sees the Asian Tour as a “great back-up plan” — not only as a means to make a living but also as a way of reconnecting with friends.
“The camaraderie between the players is at a different level,” he said of the Asian circuit. “I have had more dinner get-togethers in one Asian Tour event than I did throughout a season on the PGA Tour.”
LIV’s next event is this week outside Boston. Lahiri will make his debut in the first round playing alongside Ian Poulter and Jason Kokrak.