Careful Lahiri two-under in darkness, leaves final putt for morning

Fri 15 Mar 2019

Careful Lahiri two-under in darkness, leaves final putt for morning

By V. Krishnaswamy, one of India's leading sports writers, who has covered over 20 Majors and 250 international golf tournaments. Follow him on Twitter via @Swinging_Swamy.

Ponte Vedra, Florida, March 15: After toiling for close to just under five and a half hours on the first day of the PLAYERS Championship, Anirban Lahiri opted to return on Friday morning to make his par putt from three feet 11 inches on the 18th.

“It was dark and I could barely see. It was windy and I did not want to take chances and fritter a shot,” said the Indian, who was two-under through 17 and a half holes.

Lahiri’s playing partner and friend, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, had a very rough day despite a birdie start. He finished at 12-over 84 and ended his last three holes with a bogey-double bogey and triple bogey, which meant a lot of disappointment for his fans who came out wearing shirts with “Rat Pack” emblazoned across the front.

Lahiri’s whose best opening round of 69 came last year – but his second round 75 caused him to miss the round, is looking at two-under 70 start. It would keep him in the current tied-35th place.

Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley, who co-lead after 36 holes last week at the Palmer Invitational, were sharing the lead again after first day with each of them returning with a 65, the former delivering that in the morning wave and the latter did so in the windier afternoon. A good number of the low scores came in the morning and notable among them were Korean An Byeong-Hun’s 66 and Rory McIlory’s 67.

Mcilroy, who has been sixth or better in his last six starts and has been knocking on the doors of a win, was tied-4th at 67. He was tied-fourth with Vaugh Taylor and Ryan Moore, who slam-dunked an ace of the Par-3 17th at the Island Green.

Tiger Woods seemed set for a good start as he birdied 16th and 17th to get to three-under but he bogeyed the 18th to fall to 70. The last bogey left a bad taste in the mouth for the two-time winner who is tied-35th.

Lahiri was playing in the final group of the afternoon session, when the conditions were particularly tough with swirling winds. “When I got to the course in the afternoon and began play, I was beginning to wonder if I was playing the same course as the morning. I think I played solid to be two-under with one more putt for par on 18th,” said Lahiri, whose past three visits to the TPC Sawgrass have lasted only two rounds each.

Lahiri opened the day with a birdie on first and added two more on 11th and 15th. But the most satisfying part was that he kept his bogeys to just one, on the par-3 eighth.

Lahiri said, “They (greens) got dry quicker than I thought. I played last out in the afternoon two years ago and I just feel bad for the guys who are going out last tomorrow. It’ll be near impossible on the greens,” said Lahiri, who will return at 9am Friday to complete his last hole before going back out at 9.35am for his second round.

Lahiri nailed a nice birdie on par-5 second from seven feet following a fine chip form nearly 70 yards. He missed a birdie possibility on sixth from just under 10 feet. On the very next hole, the seventh, he did well to save par from just under 11 feet after his first putt rolled down way past the hole.

He was not as fortunate on the eighth, where he missed the green and went into the greenside bunker from where he got out to 12 feet but missed the par putt.

On Par-5 ninth he went to the left and then to right from where faced with a downhill lie he hit a great pitch to just over six feet but the birdie putt lipped out.

On 11th, an excellent chip from nearly 80 feet set him for a 21-inch birdie putt. He then holed a testy nine-foot par on the Par-3 13th.

“I’m a bit disappointed as I bailed out on a lot of golf shots. I’m working on my swing and there’s a little process of getting the confidence back. As the week progresses, I’ll go at more flags and commit to more swings. I played solid and hit a lot of greens. I would like to hit it a little closer tomorrow,” said Lahiri.