June 25, 2018: Self-improvement is one of the founding pillars of golf. In a sport that is unique for being such a personal battle, Anirban Lahiri found the fruits of his intense labour on the TPC River Highlands course in Cromwell, Connecticut.
The embattled Indian golfer found the consistency that has eluded him for so long, producing four straight rounds in the 60s and earning a T9 finish at the Travelers Championship. Bubba Watson, 17-under 263, won the third title of this season with an imposing 63 in the final round.
Watson finished three in front of Stewart Cink, Beau Hossler, J.B. Holmes and overnight leader Paul Casey. Incredibly, he worked his way back from a six stroke deficit at the start of the final round to clinch a third victory in the Travelers, adding to successes in 2010 and 2015.
“I feel like this is my home course,” said Watson, who is now just one shy of Billy Caspers four titles in the event. “As soon as they put the schedule up, I sign up for this. I want to come back here. This means so much, not only from the golf side of it, but from the family side. My dad, it was the only time he got to see me win (in 2010). He got to see me qualify for the Ryder Cup at this event. So all these things just mean so much to my family.”
Kevin Tway, Brian Harman and Russell Henley finished in T6 at 13-under 267. Bryson DeChambeau, Chase Seiffert and Lahiri rounded off the top ten at 12-under. Rory McIlroy and Jason Day healed some of their wounds from a bruising US Open, finishing just outside the top ten alongside Ryan Blaum.
Anirban began his day with a brilliant 23-foot birdie putt on the 4thhole to set the tempo for a promising final round. But two bogeys over the next three holes, punctuated by a second birdie at the 6thmeant that he turned at even par for the day.
At the par-3 fifth hole, Anirban landed himself in the greenside bunker with the tee shot. A two putt after working with the wedge left him with the first bogey on Sunday.
A brilliant chip, his third shot on the 574-yard par-5 sixth, helped Anirban to within two feet from the cup. But he went back to even, when Anirban needed three shots to find the green at the par-4 7thhole. On a day when he made 14 of 18 greens in regulation, it was one of two holes that did not go to plan.
Despite landing in the fairway bunker working his way through the par-4 12thhole, Anirban played a brilliant 118 yard approach shot to set up another birdie.
Then came the other hole that did not go to plan. Working his way through the rough around the par-4 14th, it took Anirban four strokes to make his way to the green. A two putt left him accounting for a double bogey that took some of the sheen off an otherwise stellar performance.
“I felt good playing consistently this week,” Anirban told the Golfing Indian. “I was disappointed to hit so many wayward shots today. Really felt like I played my C game, but glad that I held it together in the end and finished strong.”
Eager to end the week on his own terms, Lahiri played the last two holes with great determination. He worked his way inside of ten feet on both holes to end the week with back to back birdies, secure an under par final round and another top ten finish on the PGA TOUR.
“We have a couple of tournaments to build on this before the Open,” said Lahiri, looking ahead to the Open. “Lot of work and even more patience has gone into my golf this year.
“I am glad that I put four rounds together this week. I would have liked to finish stronger, but am not too disappointed with the week overall.”
Anirban was pleased with the way he played this week, but the Indian covets a victory on American soil. The 30 year old will continue to plod along on that quest for glory with renewed confidence.