May 11, 2018: Anirban Lahiri spoke about exorcising ghosts and exacting revenge in the lead up to THE PLAYERS Championship. The determined golfer seems to have accomplished a bit of both on Thursday with a hard fought 69 in the first round. There are six men tied at the top – Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Cantlay – each shot 66 to ride to the top of the leaderboard.
The 30 year old Indian began his round at the 10th, promptly finding the green side bunker. After taking a bogey, Anirban responded brilliantly. He made a pair of quick birdies to go one under early in his round.
There is plenty of water in play at TPC Sawgrass and Anirban got wet on the 16th hole. That resulted in a second straight bogey as he slipped back to one over for the round.
The 18th at the Players has often been discussed as Anirban’s Tin Cup moment. He made a ten at the hole last year before missing the cut. On Thursday, he played the hole with surgical precision to make a nice birdie.
Anirban drove his tee shot 276 yards to the right of the fairway. The water that swallowed three of his balls last year protects the fairway on the left. His second shot flew 196 yards, leaving him less than eight feet for birdie.
Anirban’s first nine was a yo-yo battle with the course, before he took command and coasted home on a brilliant home stretch that included three birdies.
The first of those, at the par-3 third was an absolute gem. Anirban’s 175 yard tee shot left him just inside of 30 feet from the flag. The 100th ranked Indian found the heart of the cup from there to gain in confidence and move back into under par territory.
Anirban made a couple of good putts on the sixth and seventh too, cushioning his card further, before ending the day inside the top 30.
Defending champion Si Woo Kim played brilliantly for his 67, but will need three more low scores to become the first golfer to ever defend the Players Championship title.
If Dustin Johnson is concerned about losing his top ranking, it did not show in his game on Thursday. The world No.1, needing to finish 11th or better to retain his position, fired a spotless 66 to gain a share of the lead.