04 June 2019: A rousing second round effort helped Anirban Lahiri secure a spot in the US Open at Pebble Beach. After starting with a 3-under 67 at the Scioto Country Club, Anirban stepped on the pedal to score a brilliant 65 at the Brookside Golf & Country Club to finish second in the sectional qualifiers in Columbus, Ohio. Shubhankar Sharma started at Brookside with a 3-under 69, but the Scioto course knocked him back to a 71, pushing him down to 2-under through 36 holes. The qualifying cut fell at 5-under after the two rounds, with fourteen golfers punching their ticket to Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Luke Guthrie took the medal with scores of 64 and 67, leading Anirban by one stroke at 11-under 131. Sam Saunders (-9), Jhonattan Vegas (-8), Rory Sabbatini (-7), Jason Dufner (-6) finished in that order through sixth place. The rest of the qualifiers tied in seventh at 5-under 137. Chesson Hadley, Erik Van Rooyen, Luke Donald, Aaron Baddeley, Ryan Fox and Kyoung-Hoon Lee also punched their tickets to the US Open. Brandon Wu and Collin Morikawa were the only amateurs to make the cut in Columbus.
Anirban has been in good form these past few days, even if the scores suggested otherwise. After a 67 in the opening round of the Memorial Tournament, he was in T3, but rounds of 76 and 75 during the middle rounds pushed him down the order.
At the Sectionals in Columbus, on the “longest day in golf,” Anirban began his day on the Scioto course, the more difficult of the two with par set at 70. Playing with vigour and purpose, Anirban scored a 67 containing seven birdies.
In a round that undulated with the ferocity of a storm wind, Anirban mixed the good with the bad at Scioto. Trading birdies and bogeys like a heavyweight boxer in the midst of an intense bout, Anirban exchanged birdies at 1, 3, 6 and 8 with bogeys at 2 & 5. He took 33 strokes as he made the turn at 2-under.
Three birdies in four holes from the 12th helped him secure a 67 over the first 18 holes. At this stage, both Anirban and Shubhankar were lying T10, within the range needed to qualify for the US Open. There were 14 spots on offer at Columbus.
Shubhankar had begun his day at Brookside. An eagle at the fourth and five other birdies left him well primed for a frontal attack. After making three birdies in four holes from the 14th, Shubhankar suffered a painful double at the 18th to concede ground and sign on a 69.
Anirban made the quick trip down to Brookside and continued binging on birdies to force his way up the order. Starting on the back nine, Anirban turned hot very quickly. He shot seven birdies in ten holes starting at the 11th before coasting home on six straight pars for a 10-under total of 132.
“Feels nice to be going back to a Major. Played really well today. Made a lot of birdies and stayed patient (sic),” said Anirban. I liked the golf courses that we played. Tree lined and old school. Fit my eye nicely and I hit my irons really well all day.”
“I was disappointed with the number of bogeys I made in round1 so was determined to keep a cleaner card in round 2,” he went on to explain. “Very happy to play bogey-free in the second round. The game has been feeling good and have been making a lot of birdies but need to cut down on dropped shots in the tournaments to come.”
The trip to Columbus though proved to be a stitch in time. Anirban will be making his third appearance at the US Open and the twelfth by an Indian golfer when the tournament kicks off on 13 June.
“It’s not at all fun to be sitting at home watching majors so definitely looking forward to this one,” he said. “Feeling hungry and eager to play well in big events again. Hopefully, I can carry this form forward.”
He missed the cut on his previous attempts in 2015 and 2016. Anirban also missed the cut in his last two majors, the Open and the PGA Championship in 2018 – so Pebble will offer him the chance to make amends all around.