While the main story of the 2015 PGA Championship this past weekend at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin was the record-setting play of Jason Day, two other golfers also made history: Anirban Lahiri of India and Hiroshi Iwata of Japan. Day won his first major while shooting 20 under par, which is the lowest under-par total in major history, while Lahiri had the best finish by an Indian player at a major championship, and Iwata shot a 63 in the second round on Friday, putting him in elusive company.
Lahiri has really made many strides in the past year as he has brought much more attention to himself. The 28-year-old finished tied for fifth with Brooks Koepka of the United States while shooting 13 under par. It capped a year when he participated in all four majors for the first time in his career. Although he first competed in a major in 2012 at the British Open where he finished tied for 31st, he did not return to one until qualifying for the Masters this year, finishing tied for 49th.
Part of the reason he was able to qualify was because of the success he had on the European Tour. He had previously only won on the Asian Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India, where he had five victories and 11 victories, respectively, but he got his first on the European Tour with a win at the Maybank Malaysian Open on Feb. 8, and then his second in the same month at the Hero Indian Open on the 22nd.
He then missed the cut at the US Open and then finished tied for 30th at the British Open. His four round scores this weekend were 70, 67, 70 and 68.
“It’s massive for me. It gives me so much confidence. It also tells me that I can compete with the best on the toughest courses and the best fields,” Lahiri said, according to Yahoo.
His play, however, did not get him a PGA Tour card, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. But it is possible such play could land him on the President’s Cup national team, which would make him the first Indian player to ever be a part of it.
As for Iwata, he became the 25th player in history to shoot a 63 at a major event (two have done it twice), and the first since Jason Dufner did it at the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York.
A 63 round did not seem likely after his play in the first round where he shot a five-over par 77 and seemed likely to miss the cut. That had been his experience at the other majors he participated in — only the British Open in 2008, 2014 and 2015 — but he bounced back on Friday by shooting 2 under on the first nine holes. He then eagled 11 and birdied 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17 to make history. He finished with a 70 and 71 in his next two rounds and tied for 21st.
Outside of Japan the 34-year-old is relatively unknown. He has only played on the Japan Golf Tour since 2004 and only has two wins, both of which have come in the past two years. He was very confident after the birdie on 13, saying, “After the 13th, I thought I was going to shoot 27,” according to Bleacher Report. A 27 would have given him the record at 61, so he settled for a 29.
He is not the first Asian player to reach this feat; in the 1980 British Open Isao Aoki of Japan also shot a 63. Aoki is now in the World Golf Hall of Fame and is second all-time on the Japan Golf Tour win 51 wins. Iwata’s career is not headed in the direction of the Hall of Fame, but after this performance it’s possible he can still continue to make a name for himself.
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