Lahiri jumps to 40th spot in golf rankings, secures Masters berth

Sentosa (Singapore), Dec 28 (IANS) India’s Anirban Lahiri jumped a place to be 40th in the world golf rankings released on Monday, thereby securing a berth for the Masters, 2016’s first Major.

A top-50 finish in the world rankings at the end of the year secures a ticket for the event at the Augusta National Golf Club, venue of the year’s opening Major that will be played in April in the United States.

Newly crowned Asian Tour number one Lahiri, who triumphed in Malaysia and India this year and also finished tied fifth at the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Championship to reinforce his stature as one of the global game’s rising young stars.

The 28-year-old finished tied 49th in the 2015 Masters and will return for his second appearance at the Augusta with renewed confidence.

“Starting out the year, finishing in the world’s top-50 was one of my main goals and I’m delighted to achieve this target. It also means a lot to me as I will have the opportunity to play in my second Masters Tournament after making my debut this year,” Lahiri, who also earned his 2016 PGA Tour card through the Web.Com Finals, said in an Asian Tour release.

“Playing in all four rounds at Augusta National was certainly one of the main highlights of my 2015 season and I’m looking forward to heading back there again for another crack at this great tournament,” Lahiri, who was also ranked top-20 in this year’s European Tour Order of Merit, added.

The Bengaluru golfer also said the fact that three Asian Tour members — he alongside Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat — are featured in the world’s top-50 was yet another endorsement of the growing stature and rising standards of the game in the expansive region.

“I think it’s also fantastic to see Thongchai and Kiradech featuring in the world’s top-50 which is a great reflection of the strength of the Asian Tour.”

The 46-year-old Thongchai, who won once in Europe and posted eight other top-10s this season, jumped to a career high 28th position in the world to cement his reputation as one of the best Asian golfers in the game.

Thailand’s Thongchai, the only man to win three Asian Tour Order of Merit titles, said: “I’m very proud of my achievements. Finishing so high up in the world rankings makes me very happy. I have worked very hard with my coach and my game was very consistent this year, especially my putting.

“I want to keep improving and keep playing good golf next year. I’m also very excited to play in my fifth Masters next April as to me, it’s the best tournament in the world.”

Kiradech will earn a dream Masters Tournament debut after moving up to 38th position on the rankings, up by nearly 100 rungs from where he started the season. The big-hitting Thai brilliantly won twice on the European Tour in addition to nine other top-10s around the world.

The 26-year-old said: “I am so happy to end the year in the world’s top-50. I guess winning twice this year helped me achieve this goal and I hope to keep moving up in the rankings and hopefully break into the top-30, top-20 and top-20 in time to come.

“I also cannot wait to play in the Masters Tournament as I have heard so much great things about this event and the golf course. I have always watched the Masters on TV and it will be a dream come true to tee up in the tournament with Thongchai and Anirban.”

S.S.P. Chawrasia, who dropped two places to 213th, was the second highest-ranked Indian. While Rashid Khan also fell a place to be 292nd, Chiragh Kumar moved up three places to be 296th.

Veteran Jyoti Randhawa dropped down a place to be 398th, while Rahil Gangjee went down three spots to be 423rd.

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