Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri completed his first round of the PLAYERS Championship at two-under 70 to lie at tied-35th alongside the likes of Tiger Woods and defending champion Webb Simpson on Friday. Half an hour later, he began his second round and was one-under through the front nine, taking his total to three-under for 27 holes for a tied-21st spot.
He bogeyed the 11th, but birdied the par-3 13th and par-5 16th and negotiated the dreaded par-3 17th Island Green, where Tiger Woods hit two balls into the water and had a quadruple bogey. Russell Knox (six-under through 16), Kevin Kisner (four-under through 13) and US Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk (seven-under through 13) were all tied for the lead at eight-under. Luke List (69-68) was the clubhouse leader at seven-under for 36 holes.
"After spending almost five and a half hours working hard, I did not want to take a risk on a four-footer in near darkness, where I could barely see the cup. It was windy and I did not want to take chances and fritter a shot," Lahiri said. Lahiri is hoping to make the cut at the PLAYERS for the first time, as he missed out on three previous occasions. His best opening round of 69 came last year.
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.
Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley were sharing after first day with a 65 each, with 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 five-under 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-4th with Vaugh Taylor and Ryan Moore, who aced the iconic 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 two-under 70. The last bogey left a bad taste in the mouth for the two-time winner who is tied-35th.
Lahiri had a good start with a birdie on second and then barring a bogey on eighth, he stayed clear of any punishing errors. He 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.
"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 will be near impossible on the greens," said Lahiri. 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 is a little process of getting the confidence back. As the week progresses, I will 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.
(With inputs from agencies.)