14 June 2019: As a deeply pained Anirban Lahiri went past the ninth, his face was composed of a unique grief that only an elite golfer can fathom. Admittedly Pebble Beach can be a real test, demanding accuracy off the tee and educated strategy with the irons to produce an impactful card. Starting the day at 3-over, Anirban was hanging onto his sails like an oarsman in the thick of a miserable storm.
Justin Rose layered himself into comfort, enjoying a three-stroke advantage over the field after making birdies at 15, 18 and the 2nd holes. He was 8-under with six to play. Rose finished the day at 7-under 144, after needing to take a drop when the ball rolled off the edge of the fairway and a two-putt from inside eight feet meant a bogey on the par-4 fourth hole.
Aaron Wise returned the clubhouse in an even 71 to remain at 5-under 137. Brooks Koepka remained firmly in contention, making another 69 to move to four-under alongside Matt Kuchar, Chesson Hadley and Chez Reavie.
Anirban prides himself for being a world-class golfer and the failure to translate the aspirations in his agile mind out on the course hurts him much more than any of us might be able to experience or understand. Every club he chooses, every swipe he takes, Anirban is expecting to create a symphony from tee to green.
In reality, the tricky design of the course and the winds from the ocean were teasing the desperately hardworking Anirban, dissecting his mind and bruising his body, one bogey at a time.
At the very first hole, Anirban flew right into the second cut of rough on a course where the first is bad enough. He needed a third shot to get on the green before taking a two-putt bogey from about 19 feet.
The bleeding was only just beginning. Anirban worked his way into deeper trouble, this time from a comfortable position on the left fairway of the second hole. After missing the green with his approach, Anirban took a three-putt bogey that must have broken his spirits.
But the 31-year-old Indian isn’t broken easily. Despite losing the fourth stroke of the day before reaching the fifth tee, he worked resolutely, nearly making a 22 footer for birdie. He took par there before gaining temporary respite at the sixth. After laying just short of the green on the 529 yards par-5, Anirban chipped his third to within five feet and earned his first birdie of the round.
The early bogeys meant that Anirban was trying to compensate by going for his strokes, only to concede more ground to this merciless course. “The front nine definitely is the easier stretch,” explained Anirban. “The round was a result of a bad start primarily thanks to poor chipping and short game. Also didn’t make any momentum putts. Once you start on a bad note you have to try and make a lot of birdies and the harder I pushed the more shots I dropped on the front side.”
With the cut projected to fall at 2-over, Anirban was seven strokes adrift of the mark even as he made a much-needed par at the 10th, after nearly finding the cup from 24 feet away. But another bogey wasn’t too far away, following him to the twelfth, a par-3, where Anirban took two putts after climbing out of a greenside bunker to the left, even as he sank to 10-over. Only seven holes were left to play and it will take a magical spell through the remainder of the round for Anirban to rescue his sinking ship.
Anirban found some magic indeed, but much too late to address the grim situation. He made two birdies in three holes, where he should have three in a row. He made a brilliant putt from beyond 12 feet on the 14th hole, but a three-putt bogey from five feet on the next dampened his enthusiasm.
At the 17th, Anirban made a memorable putt from 22 feet to end the round with a note of much-needed relief and laughter.
“I just wanted to play some solid golf to close out the round and made a couple of birdies coming in. 17 made me laugh because I had just 3-putted from 5 feet the hole before,” said Anirban. “Golf can be frustrating at times. You can control the effort and not the outcome. I’ll keep putting in the effort and stay patient.”
At 9-over through 36 holes, Anirban misses the cut for a third straight major. He has also yet to make the cut in a US Open. In three attempts thus far, the weekend has remained elusive since he made his US Open debut in 2015.