Ponte Vedra Beach (US): India’s Anirban Lahiri, on the hunt for a breakthrough, put in a stellar performance in harsh conditions, taking a narrow lead in one go at the again-hit PLAYERS Championship, the flagship PGA Tour $20 million tournament .
Lahiri (67-73 and 5-under through 11) took a one-shot lead at 9-under over American duo Harald Varner III (69-69 and 2-under through 9 in third) and Tom Hoge ( 66-71 and 1- under to 9 in the third).
The third round was suspended at 7:32 p.m. on Sunday due to darkness following multiple weather disruptions since Thursday.
Lahiri was 4-under and T-11 as the players’ center was reached in a week of more than 4 inches of rain, forcing a finish on Monday.
It’s still a long way with 25 holes to go, but Lahiri couldn’t stop smiling.
“I’m just in the moment right now. I’m really happy, I’m confident,” he said.
“The ball seems to come out in front of me, which has not happened so often in the past. I’m just going to try and do the same thing: shoot pins I’m comfortable with and clubs I’m comfortable with.
“If I get an uncomfortable shot, respect that and try to make a putt. I think that’s all I can do.”
After his best ever start at The PLAYERS with a 67 on the first round, he didn’t swing a club on Friday or Saturday and didn’t return to action until Sunday, playing 29 holes in extremely cold conditions, which he is admittedly not used to. .
Lahiri shot one-over 73 in the third round and that included his second eagle of the week, this time on a Par-5, and ended the round with a bogey.
The relief of coming out with a par on the deadly Par-3 17th’s Island Green was apparent when he put his hand to his heart after landing on the green.
On the wrong side of the cutting line left and missing were Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, while Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler nearly squeezed in.
Two and a half hours after closing his second round with a bogey, Lahiri came out for the third round and opened birdie-birdie from 3 yards and two-putting from 45 yards on Par-5 second. Three pairs followed and then a nine-foot birdie putt fell.
Back-to-back birdies on eighth and ninth followed. His tee shot on the eighth Par-3 came to a stop less than four feet and he hit a 25-foot bomb on the ninth to turn in a 5-under.
The 10th saw his first foul when the tee shot went into the trees, but he returned to the fairway and then threes onto the green. From 39 feet, Lahiri made two puts for a bogey.
Minutes later, two brilliant shots, a drive and an approach, brought him within 30 feet of the hole and he made a two-putt for his sixth birdie of the day, moving to 5-under for the day and 9-under for the tournament and a one-shot lead.
The horn went off and Lahiri was back at the clubhouse after a 12-hour day.
Lahiri is aiming for his first PGA Tour win after competing on the PGA Tour since 2016 and making 153 starts.
In 2021-22 he has made 12 starts so far but has not made a single Top-10 and came to TPC Sawgrass with a run of three missed cuts. TPC Sawgrass hasn’t been kind to him either with four missed cuts and a best of T-74 in five starts.
But this week, the smallest changes to his equipment by adding 3.5 grams of weight to his irons have made a huge difference.
“Yeah, who doesn’t want to win the PLAYERS Championship?” Lahiri told the media after he brilliantly produced six birdies against a lone bogey in 11 holes of his third round.
“You just don’t know. You grind away, you keep chipping, you keep working on your game, and when it clicks, it clicks. It could be this week, it could be next week. As long as it happens, and that’s the conviction you have to have.
“I’m just happy to play well and hit my irons well. When you’re in that frame of mind, you usually play well, and that’s what happens.”
Lahiri has two DP World Tour titles which he won in 2015, including one in his home country at the 2015 Hero Indian Open.
He played twice in the International Team player during the Presidents Cup and has been on the PGA TOUR since 2016 and has a career best result of T-2 at the 2017 Memorial Tournament and 12 other top-10s through 153 starts on TOUR .
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