09 March 2019: At the 461 yard par-4 first hole, Anirban Lahiri needed four just to reach the green. A two-putt from there left him precariously placed at four over, with the knife dangling to his neck.
But the 31-year-old showed remarkable grit to work his way out of the hole with the help of six birdies in a resolute 69. Anirban was lying T42 at the halfway stage of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a 30 spot improvement from where he was after a first round 74. Tommy Fleetwood (66) and Keegan Bradley (66) rode to the top of the leaderboard, enjoying a four-stroke advantage at 9-under 135.
Anirban, ranked 178th in the world, produced a stellar 155 yard approach at the par-4 third hole, helping himself to the foot of the flag for a tap-in birdie. But it took four strokes again for Anirban to navigate his way to the green on the 590 yard fourth hole and another two putt conceded a bogey.
Under increasing pressure, the Indian sank a brilliant 28 footer on the par-5 sixth hole to fuel his resurgence. At the turn, Anirban produced another remarkable putt, this time from 22 feet to go past the bend in an even 36 strokes.
A birdie at the 12th sent him under par for the day, but he was still one over on the board. A good shot off the tee and a brilliant 212-yard approach at the par-5 helped him reach the green in two, securing his fifth birdie of the day.
Anirban signed off with another birdie on the final hole, reaching the weekend in a state of positivity.
At the top were Fleetwood and Bradley, enjoying a comfortable advantage over Roger Sloan, Kevin Kisner, Keith Mitchell, Francesco Molinari, Jhonattan Vegas and Billy Horschel – all six men in T3 at 5-under 139.
Overnight leader Rafa Cabrera Bello was now leading an octet of men at T9. In the group at four under were Sungjae Im, Eddie Pepperell, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Matt Wallace, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Aaron Baddeley.
Rory McIlroy’s streak of four straight top-five finishes could be extinguished this weekend. The Northern Irishman is in T31 with scores of 72-70 needing a blockbuster weekend to threaten anyone in the top ten.