July 08 2018: Golf is one of those complex human endeavours that hinges on a fine edge. It can oscillate between benevolence and maleficence in the matter of a moment. Anirban Lahiri was subject to its vicissitudes in the starkest possible manner on Saturday. After making several long putts on Friday, Anirban struggled on the greens, missing as many as four from inside ten feet to slip down the order.
The Indian was surfing on a brilliant 61, emulating the lowest ever round by an Indian golfer on the PGA TOUR, when the tide turned without warning. Blemish free for the first two days, the Old White TPC course welcomed Anirban with a pair of bogeys at the start of the third round.
The Indian’s card was further damaged when he suffered two more bogeys before the turn – at 7 & 9.
But Anirban is a determined young golfer with the resilient spirit of a pugilist. Clasping his teeth and gearing up for battle, Anirban fought like the soldier he is, marching through the return stretch on his own terms.
The 31-year-old added birdies at the 12th, 14th and 17th holes to mitigate most of the damage suffered on the first nine, but was forced to settle for a disappointing 71. He is lying in T6, three strokes from the leaders Kelly Kraft and Harold Varner III.
Anirban hit 9 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, but he suffered a negative 2.093 strokes gained putting statistic. Xander Schauffele and Kevin Na are tied for 3rd at 13 under; and Sam Saunders is in 5th at 12 under.
Anirban needed three strokes to reach the green at the 449-yard par-4 first. A two putt accounted for his first bogey of the week.
The second hole left Anirban playing side to side – the tee shot sailed to the right of the fairway, his second landed in the green side bunker on the left. The third ended in the fringe off the green, putting another bogey on his card.
His agony multiplied when he failed to make a three footer for par at the 7th hole. Another three putt bogey at the ninth left him four over for the day.
Anirban seemed to finally find himself back in the grove soon as he started his second nine. After reaching the green with his third shot on the 568-yard par-5 12th hole, Anirban made a solid birdie putt from 11 feet out to regain some shaken confidence.
Another birdie putt, more than ten feet again, helped Anirban reduce his losses by half, with a second birdie at the 14th hole.
At the 616-yard par-5 17th, Lahiri chipped his third shot to 2 feet, to sign off for the day with a gritty trek back to the clubhouse.
The leader of any round is yet to win A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier and Anirban might be placed just in the right place for an assault on Sunday. A maiden title on the PGA TOUR will be the best way for Anirban to make the transatlantic journey for the Open Championship, starting on July 19.