Golfer Lahiri on the brink of maiden PGA Tour title

Kuala Lumpur, Oct 22 (IANS) Indias golfer Anirban Lahiri blitzed his way to a four-shot lead at the CIMB Classic on Saturday, firing a brilliant seven-under 65 in the third round to set himself up for a maiden PGA Tour title.

The reigning Asian Tour number one, who was trailing by two shots to defending champion Justin Thomas on Friday, enjoyed another birdie binge with nine on the card against a double bogey at TPC Kuala Lumpur.

His 54-hole tally of 19-under 197 gives the 29-year-old a four-shot lead over Thomas of the United States and Scotsman Russell Knox, who shot a 71 and 68, respectively, in the $7 million tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour.

Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama battled to a 69 to share fourth place with Americans James Hahn (69) and Derek Fathauer (68) while the day’s low round belonged to current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Scott Hend of Australia, who sizzled with a 63 to move up to joint 17th position.

Two-back at the start of the day, Lahiri was delighted that he finished the day with four birdies over his last five holes as he erased the disappointment of dropping shots late in his opening two rounds.

“It’s very important. Obviously, it was on my mind today … it was on my mind since I finished my round yesterday actually. I was determined to keep my focus right through the 18 holes,” said Lahiri.

With his best finish to date on the PGA Tour being tied fifth at the 2015 PGA Championship, Lahiri is hoping to join compatriot Arjun Atwal as the only Indians to win on the PGA Tour but he knows he must go low again on Sunday.

“I just need to focus on what I need to do. I feel I’m in a good place mentally and physically and with my game, so that’s exactly where you want to be going into tomorrow. I’m not going to think much about where I am but just think about what I need to do,” said Lahiri, who has seven wins on the Asian Tour.

He arrived at the CIMB Classic in confident mood following his stunning finish at the Venetian Macao Open last weekend where he birdied nine of his last 11 holes, including seven straight closing birdies, to get into a play-off, only to lose to Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert.

He has since shot 25 more birdies at TPC KL, a venue which he won the Malaysian Open here last year, raising his birdie tally to a staggering 34 over his last 65 holes.

“After Macao, I was sitting and looking, I have seven seconds and four thirds and a few fourths and fifths for my seven wins. It’s painful when you don’t get over the line, and when you do, you remember it. You remember what it felt like mentally, and I think that’s where you want to recall that feeling,” said Lahiri, who only needed 23 putts on Saturday.

“I don’t consider any lead safe out here. This golf course is such that, you’ve seen guys shooting 63, 61. I’ve shot 62 before. Justin shot 60 last year. I have to go out there and I have to just keep making birdies.”

Among other Indians in the fray, Gaganjeet Bhullar and S.S.P. Chawrasia were tied 70th and joint 75th, respectively. While Bhullar carded 74 taking his total to one-over 217, Chawrasia got a total of five-over 221 following a 73.

–IANS

pur/dg

Top