India's leading golfer Anirban Lahiri will rub shoulders with the world's very best as he debuts in the $3.5 million 18-man World Challenge starting at the Albany Golf Course here on Thursday. (
World No.39 Lahiri has been given special exemption to compete at the Professional Golfers Association (PGA)-sanctioned event. The 28-year-old will tee off alongside Jordan Spieth, winner of this year's two Majors -- Augusta Masters and the US Open. The No.1 will also defend his title here.
The field consists No.11 Zach Johnson, who won his second Major at the 2015 British Open, No.4 Bubba Watson, No.5 Justin Rose, No.6 Rickie Fowler, No.8 Dustin Johnson, No.10 Adam Scott, world No.13 Patrick Reed, No.14 Hideki Matsuyama, No.17 Brooks Koepka, No.19 Matt Kuchar, No.23 J.B. Holmes, No.24 Paul Casey, No.25 Jimmy Walker, No.36 Billy Horschel, No.41 Chris Kirk and No.43 Bill Haas.
Spieth will play the event for the third time, hoping to cap a dream 2015. Already this year, the 22-year-old Spieth has also claimed the PGA Tour's FedExCup title, captured PGA Tour Player of the Year honours and ascended to the No.1 ranking. (2016 Rio Olympics Can be Watershed for Indian Golf, Says Tiger Woods)
Spieth and 2013 Hero World Challenge winner Johnson are the only two past event champions in the field. Johnson, who also finished runner-up in 2007 and 2011, will be making his eighth appearance in the event, which is the most of anyone in the field.
However, Lahiri, who is the undisputed leader in the 2015 Asian Tour, has done enough this year to earn the respect of his high-profile rivals.
Lahiri earned his PGA Tour card for the 2015-16 season via the Web.com series Finals and made headlines in the year after winning twice -- at the Hero Indian Open and Malaysia Open. The 28-He also became the first Indian golfer to feature in the Presidents Cup last month.
The Bengaluru based player played all four Majors and World Golf Championships in 2015, and the highlight of the year was fifth place finish at the PGA Championship, the best-ever by an Indian at the Majors.