Lahiri found himself in a rather strange situation, where he did make the weekend at the PLAYERS Championship, but then found himself out of the final round, as he failed to make the ‘secondary cut’ which is applied in case 78 or more golfers make the 36-hole cut.
Lahiri’s third round four-over-par 76 saw him reach one-over-par 217 total and he was tied-74th and exited after the third round. The cut now leaves 73 players for the final round.
When Lahiri arrived at the 18th tee, he still had a chance to squeeze in for the final round with a par. He hit a decent shot from right fairway on the 18th to just inside nine foot for par. He needed to hole it to stay at even for the tournament. But his putt slipped past and he was out.
A year ago, Lahiri’s woes were around the turn when he made three bogeys from ninth to 11th and then doubled 15th and also bogeyed 16th. This time, he was in the danger zone after two bogeys on fourth and fifth, but a string of pars and a birdie on 11th steadied him a bit.
Then over the last four holes between 12th and 15th, he bogeyed three times, including some from the fairway. From two-under for the tournament at that stage, he fell to one-over and then a birdie on the 16th gave him a lifeline, but he missed par from nine feet and exited.
“Nothing worked, it was just a terrible day,” said an obviously disappointed Lahiri, who only a day earlier had felt certain parts of his game were turning a corner. It is very disappointing that I will not be around for Sunday. I have to wait for that another year.”
The five-time PGA TOUR winner Matsuyama, produced seven birdies against a lone bogey at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, improving his previous best score here by one shot as he ended the third round as the leading Asian player in the elite field.
“I hit a lot of quality shots, especially the front nine, and my iron play was vastly improved compared to the last couple of days. I struggled a little bit coming in. Hit some loose shots, but all in all, I’m happy. Any time you can shoot 6-under here at TPC Sawgrass, it’s a good day,” said Matsuyama.
The 27-year-old hit 14 greens in regulation and made over 101 feet of putts through 27 strokes on the greens. He starts the final round eight shots back of new leader Jon Rahm from Spain.
“I hit my driver well. I kept it in the fairway, gave myself a lot of good chances, but again, I need to work a little harder, go to the range after the round now and try to be ready for tomorrow and have a good finish,” said Matsuyama whose best finish at THE PLAYERS is T7 in 2016.
The long-hitting Rahm took over the lead in the PGA TOUR’s flagship US$12.5 million tournament with a blistering 64 pushing him one shot ahead of co-overnight leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy. Australia’s Jason Day will enter Sunday’s final round three back while Mexican Abraham Ancer is fifth, a further shot back of the leader.
Rahm, chasing a third PGA TOUR win, said: “I had a good stretch from 1 to 18 pretty much today. What to say? I don’t know what my scoring average has been on Saturday the last two years, but I think I’ve beat it by quite a bit. It was a great day. Didn’t miss many shots out there.”
Si Woo Kim, THE PLAYERS Champion in 2017, shot a 72 for T43 alongside Sung Kang who shot a 74. Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan also returned a 74 for T69 while India’s Anirban Lahiri stumbled to a 76 to miss the third-round secondary cut which was imposed to reduce the size of the field nearest to 70 players.