PGA Championship: Anirban Lahiri jumps into contention

Anirban Lahiri celebrated independence day with an impressive 67 to surge up the leaderboard

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Anirban Lahiri is lying T4 at the PGA Championship

Report by Anand Datla

Whistling Straits, Wisconsin
As India celebrates its 69th Independence Day, Anirban Lahiri is flying the tricolour high across the oceans with an expression of freedom that is beginning to draw global attention. The resilient Indian golfer shot 67 in the rain interrupted second round to jump to 7-under, just four shots behind the leader Matt Jones.

He was caught out on the wrong side of the 18th in the first round and it seems he was eager to make amends. Lahiri has gained a refined understanding of this Whistling Straits course this week and he put that to good use through a difficult second round that was suspended on Friday for inclement weather.

He started his second round on the 10th and putting behind the difficult stretch on this course to bed at one under seems to have done his confidence a world of good. Lahiri made a birdie at the 11th hole to get his second round going. He came agonisingly close to adding more, within inches at both the 13th and 14th, before settling for pars at both holes.

He left his approach shot way too right off the pin at the 15th, but managed to two putt again to remain at one under when the storm warming put an end to the round. He came out on Saturday clearly driven by the desire to move it up and a birdie at the 16th signalled his intent.

Though he gave away a bogey at the next hole, Lahiri did not let that affect his concentration when he teed off at the 18th. Having taken six shots in the first round to navigate the par-4 hole, he made an easy par this time around to turn in 35 shots.

“I was a little frustrated yesterday because even in the afternoon I think the conditions were good for scoring,” reminded Anirban. “I hit a lot of fairways, but I just didn’t seem to hit them close enough, or when I did I just didn’t make enough putts. I felt like I could have played really well in the 13 holes that I played yesterday. So, I guess it was nice to just get some sleep and calm down and just come back and focus. So that was good.”

Anirban was on fire on his second nine, making four birdies in five holes from the 3rd through 7th to make an impactful move up the leaderboard. Lahiri needed just 32 shots to get through those nine holes to set himself up for a promising weekend at 7-under 137.

The American press asked Anirban if he felt he belonged at this level. And his poised response to that underlined the young golfer’s belief and ambition. “Well, I’ve played every WGC and every Major, so obviously I belong here because I wouldn’t be playing otherwise. I feel like I can compete. It’s good to finally have evidence of that this week. But, yeah, we’re only halfway through.”

It is very impressive how Anirban has been playing this course all week. Despite the narrow fairways and undulating topography, he seems to have picked his spots with a very studied approach.

If his execution continues to work as it has thus far, Indian fans could be in for a hot ride. Get some coffee, lose some sleep and enjoy the brilliant show. We could be in for a rare treat this weekend.

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