Despite Tour struggles for Anirban Lahiri, he's not 'selfless' for playing in Olympics

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KAWAGOE, Japan – It’s been a year for Anirban Lahiri, but just don’t tell him his decision to play this week’s Olympic golf competition is selfless.

“It’s not selfless. It’s actually selfish because I want this. I’m not doing this for anyone else, I’m doing this for me,” he said Wednesday as he was putting the finishing touches on his preparations at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The 34-year-old from India started this season on the PGA Tour with limited status, struggled for starts early and when he finally found some momentum in the spring, a positive COVID-19 test sent him spiraling, both professionally and physically.

Olympic Men’s Competition: Full-field tee times | Full coverage

When he did return to the Tour he missed three starts and his game and body weren’t right. By his own estimate, it took him about 45 days to “feel human again.”

“I lost a lot of weight, lost a lot of speed,” he said. “The first couple of events back I was completely out of depth. Physically it translated to tournament golf. When your adrenaline is pumping and you know what you can do but your body refuses to do it. You’re fighting yourself.”

He also found himself scrambling to qualify for the FedExCup playoffs with dwindling starts when he received the call that he’d qualified for the Olympics.

“The day I found out I was in [the Olympics], the first thing I did was I called my wife. I said, ‘I just got into the Olympics.’ She was like, ‘No way, I thought it was closed,’” Lahiri said. “She asked, ‘What do you want to do?’ And then I asked her a question, ‘How do you not play in an Olympics for your country?’”

Given the year he’s endured, given his struggles, the answer could have been straightforward. He’s currently 115th on the season-long points race and in danger of losing his Tour card. But none of that mattered.

Lahiri understands what winning a medal in Tokyo would mean for golf in his country, where the game is still a niche sport.

“We got a shooting medal a few years ago in the Olympics and it completely revamped the shooting program in India. I saw what that did for shooting,” said Lahiri, who finished 57th at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. “I would like to be able to do the same thing for golf. Then I could say I did something for my career, not only for myself. This is the one week when I’m not really doing it for personal glory.”

Just don’t tell him he’s being selfless.

“If I woke up yesterday morning in Palm Beach after playing the 3M Open and not being here and I switched on the television to the Olympics I would have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror,” he said. “That’s me, I’m not saying that’s for everyone else, but that’s how I’m wired. That’s not selfless, that’s selfish.”