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Anirban Lahiri, one of six new signings recently unveiled by the Greg Norman-fronted LIV Golf Series, has opened up about his decision to join the circuit - citing loneliness, a return to his roots and a change in how golf is consumed in India as his main drivers.
"It's a very lonely life out there as a top athlete, and that is something many fans are unable to comprehend," he told Hindustan Times.
"Just to give you an example, finishing second at the Players [Championship] was such a huge thing for me, but I could not celebrate until four months later in July when I visited India after the Scottish Open. I see this [joining LIV Golf] as an effort to correct my work-life balance. I see this as a move back closer to my family and friends. I see this as something that gives me more time to enjoy my kids growing up."
Lahiri will now ply his trade away from the PGA Tour, and he will do so without any ill-feeling towards the circuit that gave him a home for nearly a decade: "I really dont have anything negative to say about the PGA Tour. The eight years I spent playing there have been an amazing experience. I greatly enjoyed playing against some of the best players in the world. This is more of a personal decision."
The 35-year-old is the first Indian contracted to the Saudi-backed Series and believes the venture can have the same impact as the Indian Premier League has had to cricket: "I look at the IPL and T20 and when it started, I remember the almost-vehement opposition it received. But it had the potential of changing the way we consumed cricket and change is always good.
"Look at it now. The Board of Control for Cricket in India is laughing all the way to the bank and so are the players. The broadcasters are delighted because they get off-the-chart ratings. LIV can be the IPL of golf."
When it comes to LIV Golf, they are without a mainstream television broadcast deal. Instead, the product is consumed via the streaming platform - YouTube. On face value, the loss of revenue is bound to be seen as a negative by LIV Golf bosses but it has had a positive effect on viewership in India.
"Let's start with the fact that TV channels in India hardly ever broadcast golf," Lahiri said. "Considering this scenario, so many people have told me how they have enjoyed the streaming of LIV Golf."
There are many future uncertainties surrounding LIV Golf, mainly the award of Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points and whether players will be able to contend in Major championships. Lahiri however, considered that as part of his decision.
"Obviously I am hoping that everything gets sorted out soon," he said. "It would be strange if guys like DJ [Dustin Johnson], Brooks [Koepka], Phil [Mickelson], Bryson [DeChambeau] are unable to get into future Majors because they don't have enough OWGR points.
"I have a great back-up plan in the Asian Tour. It will be somewhat of a homecoming for me and I think I need that at this stage of my career. The new International Series events have been amazing for all my friends back home. I have always enjoyed travelling to places like Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. The camaraderie between the players is at a different level. I have had more dinner get-togethers in one Asian Tour event than I did throughout a season on the PGA Tour."
Lahiri will make his LIV Golf debut this week at the International Golf Club in Boston, alongside World No.2 Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann, Harold Varner III, Cameron Tringale and Marc Leishman.
James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – from tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with items from the likes of Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Adam Scott and Ernie Els. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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