23 August 2019: The quest for a PGA TOUR card has brought Anirban Lahiri to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. After a rousing start to his campaign with a T7 in the first leg, the Indian continued in the same vain at the Albertsons Boise Open in Idaho. He shot three-under 68 to plant himself inside the top twenty, another day closer to securing his future on the Tour.
The 32-year-old made a great start with a birdie at the 10th before adding two more at the 15th and 16th. After reaching the green in two, Anirban secured his third birdie at the par-5 16th hole. He made the turn in 32 strokes, but bogeys on the first and ninth (his last hole) meant that birdies at two and six did not improve his score any further.
Anirban is four strokes back from the leaders, Grayson Murray and Charlie Saxon. The duo shot rounds of 7-under 64 at the Hillcrest Country Club to share the opening round honours. Saxon is looking to gain his first ever PGA TOUR ticket.
“It wasn’t the cleanest round, I don’t even think I hit that many greens, but when I was in trouble, I was able to give myself a good look at par,” said Saxon. “My putts per greens in regulation must have been really low because when I did hit the green, I was pouring in the birdie putts.”
It is a good reversal of fortunes for Saxon. He missed the cut last week posting scores of 73-79.
“I’d love to play on the PGA TOUR next year, it’s been a lifelong dream that I have a chance to achieve, but at the same time, I know that another year out here wouldn’t be the worst thing with some more time to get better,” Saxon added. “So I’m just treating it as an opportunity, and if I play well the next three days then I will get my TOUR card, and if not, then the world isn’t going to end.”
Murray, the 2017 Barbasol Championship winner, will secure his status with a good result this week after enduring a back injury that curtailed his golf in 2019. A medical exemption means that Murray is assured of at least twelve starts next season, but a top 25 in the Finals could afford a full season.
“My goal was to be feeling good going into these Playoffs,” said Murray. “Like any of us out here, if we’re playing decent or swinging decent we want to keep it going. I’m glad that my body is feeling good enough to do it.”
Shubhankar Sharma continued to struggle. After missing the cut in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, he needed to finish inside the top ten to harbour hopes of full status on the PGA TOUR. As it is, he made four over 75 and put himself in a tight spot going into the second round.
The 22-year-old made four birdies on Thursday, but his card was taking bullets all along. After making the turn at one-over with four bogeys, Shubhankar clawed back to even par with a birdie at the third hole. He was even par with just five holes to play, but conceded four straight bogeys, slumping to a 75.
Hank Lebioda, Tom Hoge, Tyler Duncan and Mark Anderson are lying T3 after carding a 65 on Thursday. Anderson is 14th in The 25 and has already secured his PGA TOUR card. The other three men, like Anirban, ended the regular season between 126 and 200 on the FedEx Cup standings and are riding the Finals to try and remain on the TOUR.