Bogey-free Lahiri off to a flying start with 66 in Sanderson Farms Champs

V Krishnaswamy October 2 | Updated on October 02, 2020 Published on October 02, 2020

Anirban Lahiri of India plays his shot from the seventh tee during World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational   -  Getty Images

The kind of a start I was have been looking for: Lahiri

Anirban Lahiri’s hot putter got him off to a flying start in the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship. A bogey free 66, one of his best starts in last four years, saw him Tied-seventh and two shots behind co-leaders Charley Hoffman and Jimmy Walker, who started from different ends of the course, but came back with similar results of 8-under. Later , Kevin Chappell and defending champion Sebastian Munoz joined him at the top for a four-way lead. Matt Gligic of Canada is fifth at 7-under at Mississippi, US.

Lahiri was tied for seventh were JT Poston, Keegan Bradley, Cameron Davis and Talor Gooch.

Lahiri knows he needs a good result each week to get into the following week and he is embracing the pressure. Playing at the Sanderson Farms for only the second time – he was T-45 last year - Lahiri said the Country Club of Jackson reminds him of golf courses he grew up playing on in Asia.

Lahiri said, “This is the kind of a start I was have been looking for and trying to get with good starts. Even though the game has been there for last couple of starts, there has been a little bit of volatility. So to open with a bogey free round I am happy. I have put in a lot of work in my iron play. I had a chat with my coach Vijay Divecha and my short game coach is here on site and he gave me some of his observation. That was the main point, not of concern, but inconsistency. So, it was good to see myself hit some good iron shots and it was very satisfying. Otherwise relatively stress free, even though the course is a little tricky, but playing in morning it was soft. It is important to play well on first two days and it is important as the greens are among the fastest we play and it will become drier as we go on.”

Lahiri will need another Top-10 like last week to get a start next week at the Shriners Hospital Open in Vegas.

Also read: Lahiri confident on eve of the start at Sanderson Farms event on PGA

He said, “I find myself in a weird place in terms of my eligibility. You know, I obviously haven’t had very good seasons the last couple of years and I missed a bunch of events. I have to just kind of play my way into events, and that’s really the first priority, to have the right kind of schedule, to have a full go at the golf courses that I like to play and just get back to contending or getting into contention. So there’s a lot of those goals and they really motivate you.”

Lahiri, who had had two birdies on the front nine and four more on the back nine, besides missing a couple of other makeable ones, said, “It was lots of good combinations. Obviously confidence is up. I feel like I’m playing really well. I like this golf course. Last year was my first time here. It reminds me a lot of the tracks I grew up playing in Asia. Probably not greens this quick, but similar to look at.”

The highlight was his excellent form around the greens. It included a brilliant 24-foot birdie putt on Par-3 seventh and chip-in birdie from the fringe 31 feet away on par-4 12th.

Lahiri, who got into the field for this week on the strength of his Top-10 finish last week, found only half the fairways but reached 15 of the 18 the greens in regulation and whenever he was more than 15-20 feet from the pin, he did well to get into tap-in range and made no mistakes.

He did miss a nine-footer on Par-4 second and a 10-footer for birdie on Par-5 fifth. Yet the work he has put into his game during the lockdown is beginning to pay off. Later his 26-foot putt for birdie on 16th stopped an inch short on the lip of the hole.

Also read: Anirban Lahiri’s back nine run fetches his best result in almost 18 months

Asked if he feels the pressure of doing well week to week to get into events, Lahiri added, “I don’t know (if it is) hard or easy, I’m just doing the same things that I did last week and the week before that in Napa, as well. I’m just trying to stick to my process and the results are coming right now. I’m swinging it good, feel like I’ve got a good grip on my putter right now. I feel confident. I guess it’s good to have that motivation to get to Vegas now, I guess, or maybe even better.”

On the turnaround in form, Lahiri felt, “I think the lockdown really helped to start. I think the lockdown really helped me. I was in India for five months. I left pretty much the Monday after Bay Hill to go play the Hero Indian Open and then we got locked in. They closed the borders down. So I was there for a long time. Spent about 40 days straight with my coach (Vijay Divecha) before I came back out here, and I got back to the basics, undid a lot of the bad habits that had crept into the game and just tried to clean up the game, clean up the mind and just prepare.”

What if he does not get into Top-10 and can play next week in Vegas, Lahiri simply said, “I will go back and have a great week with my family and come back out in Bermuda and try and contend that week.”

But for now, the Sanderson Farms Championship and adding another good result is uppermost in his mind.

Among other Asian stars, Korea’s K.H. Lee opened with a 68. Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan shot 2-under 70, Sungjae Im carded 1-under 71, Si Woo Kim (72), Byeong Hun An (73), Xinjun Zhang (73), Satoshi Kodaira and Sung Kang (74 each), KJ Choi (76) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (77).

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Published on October 02, 2020
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