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A highly motivated Anirban Lahiri gave himself a great boost ahead of the Olympic Games, as he rode a superb 7-under 65, that was studded with four birdies in last five holes, to finish tied third at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Kentucky. It was his best result of the season, bettering T-5 at Texas Open.

He ended at 20-under, while Seamus Power beat HT Poston on the sixth play-off hole to win the title after the duo was tied at 21-under. Lahiri had earlier set the clubhouse target, an hour and a half before the final group. Lahiri was joined by Sam Ryder at 20-under. Poston who looked like winning easily dropped a double and a bogey on 15th and 16th and failed to birdie either 17 or 18 to fall to 21-under. Power playing two groups ahead of Poston birdied 16 and 18 to set a new clubhouse target, which Poston was unable to overtake.,

Lahiri’s finish will in all probability ensure a finish inside Top-125 on the FedExCup standings as he moved him up from 127th to 108th and ahead of stars like Matt Kuchar (112), Adam Scott (113) and even Rickie Fowler (124).

On the final day of the Barbasol, the 34-year-old Lahiri made eight birdies, including four over his closing five holes, at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville to end his week on 20-under 268, one stroke behind the playoff duo of Power and Poston.

It was a big relief for Lahiri  who had struggled with COVID-19 in April. It was his third career top-three finish on the PGA TOUR and with at least one more start at the Wyndham, he should be fine for the Play-offs.

Lahiri said, “I think all week, I’ve played a little better than the scores I’ve shot. I’ve been a little disappointed with my scrambling and just my score hasn’t been as good as I would have liked it to be. I’m really happy with how I played. To finish like that was really important, just with rating myself on the FedExCup. I’m not playing next week, off to Tokyo, so I wanted to make sure that I get the most out of this week. I’ve done whatever I could given the circumstances.”

His week’s cards of 68, 67, 68 and 65 marked the first time he has shot in the 60s in all four rounds of a tournament since finishing tied 10th in the 2018 Mayakoba Classic in Mexico. He was especially delighted with his ball-striking, ranking in the top-15 for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Approach to the Green and his putter worked like a charm where he ranked fourth in the category.

After an opening birdie on the third hole from eight feet, Lahiri rattled home a 32-foot putt at the next before finishing strongly with six more birdies on his homeward stretch against a lone bogey on 13. “Yeah, I really needed those,” said Lahiri.

“I really enjoyed it. The golf course obviously is set up for a ton of birdies and eagles, so you better be flag hunting and rolling it good. All in all, a great week,” said the former two-time International Team member of the Presidents Cup.

Lahiri will next feature in the Olympic Games from July 29 to August 1 where he will find himself challenging the likes of the newly crowned Open champion Collin Morikawa, World No. 1 Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schaufffele, Rory McIlroy and local hero Hideki Matsuyama.

“It’s exciting to be wearing the Tricolours. It’s always a really, really special thing to represent India. Every opportunity that I get, I’m going to grab it with both hands, and hopefully I can go with this form to Tokyo and keep making these birdies because I’m going to need them,” said Lahiri, who finished 57th from a field of 60 in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

“It would mean everything (to win a medal). I think it would change the way golf is perceived in India. I think it would change the kind of support we get from corporates and the government. I think it will make the kids want to play more. It would have similar impact to winning a major even. I think the Olympics is the most watched sporting spectacle in the world and definitely more so in India. I think more people would watch an Olympic event than just a regular PGA TOUR event in India. That’s a great opportunity for me to give back to the game and bring some glory to the country,” he said.

Inputs from www.golfxyz.in

Anirban Lahiri of India.

Anirban Lahiri returns to THE PLAYERS Championship for a fifth time this week but is still looking at making a meaningful mark at the event. 

Lahiri got into the elite field at the US$15 million showpiece following the withdrawal of former World No. 1, Brooks Koepka who pulled out due an injury. The opportunity to feature in the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is not lost on Lahiri as he seeks to find some momentum to truly get his 2020-21 season into gear following a bunch of mixed results including a missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard last week..

Candid as usual, Lahiri, a former Asian No. 1, said, “It’s nice to be back. I didn’t realize it’s my fifth time back. I really like this golf course, I love the way it is set up and I feel like it’s one of those tracks where I can do really well. My record doesn’t show that though. The game has been a little patchy, up and down, but I think it’s trending back in the right direction. I have a couple of things that I’ve been working on and they seem to be falling into place, so it’s all about putting it together now.”

The 154-player field includes more than 100 PGA Tour winners and 48 of the top 50 each from the FedExCup points list and world ranking, including Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Bryson Dechambeau, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm. In Lahiri’s four appearances at TPC Sawgrass, he missed three cuts and finished T74 in 2019.

Apart from the star-studded field, the tournament will also set a unique landmark. Golf fans will be able to enjoy ‘Every Shot Live’ on GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR, made available exclusively by the PGA TOUR.

It will be available from the first round and every shot by every player will be live-streamed on GOLFTV, allowing fans to follow any player in the elite field. More than 32,000 shots are expected over 72 holes from a starting field. Fans will be able to choose what players to watch, how you watch and stream on different devices. 

Lahiri has played at THE PLAYERS both in May previously and now in March and sees a change in weather between the two periods. “Well, obviously three of my previous appearances were in May, with different weather. I played in 2019 in March. But it’s going to be slightly different in terms of the temperatures and the wind. If anything I think this is probably a better wind for my game style. So the one thing I haven’t done as well in the past is probably hit as many fairways as you need to.

“On the weekend, the greens are going to get really firm and fast, we all know that, so it’s going to be critical to come in from the short grass to really control the ball and that’s going to be my mine focus this week.“

Lahiri did not make it to the field at last year’s edition of THE PLAYERS, and the event itself was cancelled after the first round and the TOUR shut down for three months. “I think it’s been a year now, a full circle pretty much since COVID struck the golfing world. For me it was, there was a lot of good that came out of it. I did get a lot done in India, I went back for the Hero Indian Open, which was the week after THE PLAYERS last year. And that ended up being a good thing for me, because I got a lot of time at home with my coach and just managed to reassemble all the parts that were kind of getting a little rickety.”

On what it would take make a serious bid for the title, Lahiri elaborated, “I mean, all the guys who have won here previously have driven the ball really well and putted really well. I think those are the two things that are going to be really, really important. So you have to have all the departments firing and also that’s why it’s not so heavily dominated by someone who hits it miles or who has a really exceptional short game, you got to do everything good and you got to drive and putt well more than anything else.”

Saaniya Sharma and Tvesa Malik.

Saaniya Sharma finally found the form she has been searching for this year as she holed five birdies against three bogeys for the day’s best of 2-under 70 on the first day of the fifth leg of the Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour at the DLF Golf & Country Club.

Saaniya’s best finish this season has been T-12 but in the first round at Gurugram she shot her best round of the year. It gave her a one-shot lead over the trio of experienced Tvesa Malik and the Bakshi sisters, Hitaashee and Jahanvi. They carded 1-under 71 each at the challenging Gary Player layout.

Tvesa Malik, playing with Saaniya in the first group this morning, had two birdies against one sole bogey on the par-5 15th. She said, “It was disappointing that I could not take my chances,” said Tvesa, who plans to keep playing on the domestic Tour to keep honing her game before she goes to Europe in summer.

The top amateur was the talented Avani Prashanth, who has already tasted success. She may well have been a joint leader but for the double bogey on the Par-5 18th. She was sole fifth at 72, while Vani Kapoor, playing at her home course, carded 74 and was sixth.

Saaniya, a qualified referee and a coach to boot, has been playing patchy golf this season and was therefore happy to get a card under par. “I have worked hard last few weeks, so it is good to see the scores coming in,” she said. The key will now be to maintain consistency over the next two rounds.

Jahanvi Bakshi was cruising at 5-under through 12 holes before she hit the roadblock with a triple bogey on Par-4 13th hole, which gave grief to a lot of the players. She also dropped a bogey on Par-5 15th, but parred the others to limit the damage and shot 71.

Hitaashee Bakshi, who had her maiden win last year, was 2-under through the front nine with three birdies and a bogey. She then parred eight holes in succession. A par would have given her a share of the lead, but she dropped a shot on 18th to fall back to 71.

Three players Gauri Karhade, Shweta Mansingh and Lakhmehar Pardesi were Tied-7th with 76 and three others Neha Tripathi, Oviya Reddi and amateur Riya Yadav shot 77 each to be Tied-10th.

Ridhima Dilawari hurt her left arm and pulled out after shooting 81, while Diksha Dagar, bothered by her back, struggled to 87. Amandeep Drall also did not have a great day as she shot 79, which included a quintuple bogey nine on Par-4 13th hole.

Tee times for the second round of the fifth leg of the Hero WPGT at DLF Golf and Country Club, Gurugram:

8:00 AM: Diksha Dagar 87; Disha Kavery 85;

8:10 AM: Anisha Agarwalla 85; Trimann Saluja 84; Nishna Patel (A) 83

8:20 AM: Rishika Muralidhar (A) 83; Ananya Datar 83; Hunar Mittal (A) 81

8:30 AM: Jyotsana Singh 81; Gursimar Badwal 81; Ishvari Prasanna 81;

8:45 AM: Geetika Ahuja 81; Gaurika Bishnoi 80; Khushi Khanijau 80

8:55 AM: Shagun Narain 79; Durga Nittur 79; Amandeep Drall 79;

9:05 AM: Vidhatri Urs (A) 78; Astha Madan 78; Rhea Jha 78;

9:15 AM: Riya Yadav (A) 77; Oviya Reddi 77; Neha Tripathi 77

9:30 AM: Lakhmehar Pardesi 76; Shweta Mansingh 76; Gauri Karhade 76

9:40 AM: Vani Kapoor 74; Avani Prashanth (A) 72; Hitaashee Bakshi 71

9:50 AM: Jahanvi Bakshi 71; Tvesa Malik 71; Saaniya Sharma 70.

With inputs from www.golfxyz.in

Amandeep Drall and Hitaashee Bakshi endured a double bogey each, but still managed a share of the lead at the end of the first round of the fourth leg of the Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour at the Poona Club Golf Course on Wednesday. Both of them shot 3-under 68 each at the Par-71 layout.

The duo was one shot clear of surprise third place holder Jyotsana Singh, who despite two late bogeys carded 2-under 69.

Amandeep, leader on the Hero Order of Merit, who showed signs of a revival in fortunes last week with a runner-up finish, continued that this week with a card of 68 that included six birdies, a bogey and a double bogey. Hitaashee, who had a run of four birdies in five holes, with a double bogey in between, also had a bogey and a double bogey.

Hitaashee’s elder sister Jahanvi and Ridhima Dilawari were also under par at 1-under 70, while seven players, including players with a fair bit of experience on the Ladies European Tour, shot even par rounds. The seven players tied for sixth were Tvesa Malik, Diksha Dagar, Vani Kapoor, Seher Atwal, Ananya Datar, Khushi Khanijau and amateur Khushi Hooda.

Amandeep Drall opened with birdies on first and fourth but soon after had a bogey on the Par-4 fifth and a double bogey on the Par-5 seventh. She recovered well with four birdies against no bogeys between ninth and 16th for a 68.

Hitaashee, who broke through for her first pro win in December 2020, birdied three in a row from 12th and had three other birdies. She dropped a bogey on Par-4 eighth and a double on Par-4 11th.

Tvesa Malik, playing her first event in 2021, carded even par but was disappointed that two of her three bogeys came on Par-5s, the 12th and 18th.

Last week’s winner amateur Avani Prashanth did well to recover from a difficult start of bogey-bogey to card 2-over 73 and was lying T-15.

For the second week running, there was a hole-in-one as Rhea Purvi Sarvanan aced the Par-3 182-yard 16th hole, but she also had a triple bogey on the Par-5 eighth hole and carded 2-over 73. While there was one ace, there were two eagles. Shriya Vivek (73) holed her second shot on the Par-4 10th and Ishvari Prasanna eagled the Par-5 12th.

Things did not work as per plan for Gaurika Bishnoi as she shot 4-over 75.

Tee times for the second round of the fourth leg of the Hero WPGT at Poona Club Golf Course, Pune :

8:30 AM : Saaniya Sharma 83; Marshneil Prasad 83;

8:40 AM : Durga Nittur 82; Disha Kavery 82;

8:50 AM : Mehar Atwal 81; Nishna Patel (A) 80; Astha Madan 80;

9:00 AM : Trimann Saluja 80; Anousha Tripathi 79; Geetika Ahuja 78;

9:15 AM : Rhea Jha 78; Asmitha Sathish 77; Shweta Mansingh 76;

9:25 AM : Ishvari Prasanna 76; Shagun Narain 75; Gaurika Bishnoi 75;

9:35 AM : Nayanika Sanga (A) 74; Puneet K. Bajwa (A) 74; Oviya Reddi 74;

9:45 AM : Neha Tripathi 74; Rhea Purvi Saravanan 74; Avani Prashanth (A) 73;

10:00 AM : Shriya Vivek 73; Sneha Singh (A) 72; Gauri Karhade 72;

10:10 AM : Khushi Khanijau 71; Ananya Datar 71; Diksha Dagar 71;

10:20 AM : Khushi Hooda (A) 71; Tvesa Malik 71; Seher Atwal 71;

10:30 AM : Vani Kapoor 71; Ridhima Dilawari 70; Jahanvi Bakshi 70;

10:40 AM : Jyotsana Singh 69; Hitaashee Bakshi 68; Amandeep Drall 68.

With inputs from www.golfxyz.in

Pranavi Urs and Diksha Dagar.

Pranavi Urs, who has a win and a runner-up finish in the two starts in 2021, will start as a big favourite in the third leg at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club on Wednesday.

Pranavi, runner-up behind Ridhima Dilawari in the opening leg and then winner in the second leg last month, will lead a big field that includes LET winner Diksha Dagar, who plays her first event of 2021. 

This is the third leg of the Hero WPGT Tour with a purse of Rs. 10 lakhs and the total field is 37, the highest ever in its history, indicating the growing strength of professional women golfers in India. It includes six amateurs.

Ridhima is also in the fray, as is Amandeep Drall, who still leads the combined 2020-21 Hero Order of Merit. Amandeep, who won the eighth leg of the 2020 season and then finished runner-up in the ninth and last leg of 2020, has seen a dip in form. She was ninth in both first and second legs of 2021 last month, so she will be hoping to get back to the form that has seen her get to the top of the Hero Order of Merit.

The Bakshi sisters, Hitaashee, who was second in the second leg, and Jahanvi will also put forward a strong claim, while seasoned Vani Kapoor, winless for a long time, and Amandeep Drall are also in the field.

Astha Madan, who played a few LET events last year, and past winners Gauri Karhade and Neha Tripathi also feature in the field.

Of the six amateurs in the field, namely Avani Prashanth, Khushi Hooda, Nayanika Sanga, Nishna Patel, Sneha Singh and Vidhatri Urs, Sneha has already tasted victory on the pro Tour while still an amateur.

Tee times for the first round of the third leg of the Hero WPGT at TNGF Bombay Presidency Golf Club, Mumbai:

8:00 AM : Geetika Ahuja; Ishvari Prasanna;

8:10 AM : Shweta Mansingh; Marshneil Prasad;

8:20 AM : Seher Atwal; Lakhmehar Pardesi; Khushi Hooda (A);

8:30 AM : Avani Prashanth (A); Diksha Dagar; Ananya Datar;

8:40 AM : Vani Kapoor; Vidhatri Urs (A); Rhea Jha;

9:05 AM : Sneha Singh (A); Astha Madan; Shriya Vivek;

9:15 AM : Pranavi Urs; Shagun Narain; Ayesha Kapur;

9:25 AM : Nayanika Sanga (A); Amandeep Drall; Trimann Saluja;

9:40 AM : Asmitha Sathish; Jyotsana Singh; Saaniya Sharma;

9:50 AM : Nishna Patel (A); Khushi Khanijau; Durga Nittur;

10:00 AM : Jahanvi Bakshi; Oviya Reddi; Neha Tripathi;

10:10 AM : Ridhima Dilawari; Hitaashee Bakshi; Gauri Karhade.

With inputs from www.golfxyz.in

Dustin Johnson of the USA.

Dustin Johnson won his second Saudi International in three years – he was second once – as he showcased his preference for the Saudi International. Though he was not really in trouble he still had to stave off the challenge of Tony Finau and Victor Perez.

The PGA TOUR’s top star, Johnson, who is the World Number One, won his third title in eight starts and fourth in 13, as he cemented his position at the top of world rankings even more. He has a huge lead of more than three and a half average points over second ranked Jon Rahm.

India’s sole player in the field, Shubhankar Sharma, missed the halfway cut.

Johnson, who won the inaugural event here two years ago before finishing as runner-up to Graeme McDowell 12 months later, carded a closing 68 at Royal Greens Golf and Country club to finish on 15 under par. That was two clear of Finau and Justin Rose.

“Conditions when we started were really tough,” Johnson said. “I knew I was hitting it well, I saw the leaderboard and I knew the guys were playing well.

“I kept giving myself chances – I didn’t hole any of them but I hit good shots and I finally holed a really nice putt on 13 and from there on I played solid.”

He added: “Couldn’t hole any putts today. Just the reads, I’d see it going left to right it would go right to left; I’d see it going right to left it would go left to right. It was tough all day today.

Perez had been progressing patiently and a fine approach to six feet on the 15th saw him join Finau one adrift of the leader.

Finau three putted the 16th to drop two back, although Johnson and Perez in the group behind also found problems on the par three. The Frenchman hit his tee shot into a swale to the right of the green and, after pitching through the putting surface, ran up a double bogey to end his challenge.

Johnson failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker but, after Finau had bogeyed the 17th attempting to force the issue, Johnson produced a magnificent drive on the same hole to leave a simple up and down for birdie.

There was still some drama to be had on the last – Finau was a whisker away from holing out from the sand for eagle, while Johnson found a bunker off the tee and almost picked out another trap with his lay-up.

However, once his ball settled on the fairway he was able to conservatively pitch to the middle of the green and two putt for the win.

Rose made five birdies in a flawless closing 65, while Perez missed a birdie chance on the last to finish alongside Scotland’s Callum Hill in fourth.

With inputs from www.golfxyz.in

Tvesa Malik who was solidly placed at 3-under through 13 holes collapsed in the last five and finished at 3-over 75 in the first round of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International on Thursday. Tvesa, who has been having a good season, started on the back nine and dropped six shots  between the fifth, her 14th hole, and the eighth, her 17th hole. She is now placed T-55 in the first-ever women’s professional golf event in Saudi Arabia.

Among other Indians, Aditi Ashok played steady with a card of 1-overr 73 that included one birdie and two bogeys. Aditi, sixth last week in Dubai, is placed -31st in One million Euro event.

Diksha Dagar and Astha Madan, carded six-over 78 each and were placed T-86. Diksha had three birdies, but she also had five bogeys and two doubles. Astha had just one birdie, five bogeys and one double.

Tvesa starting on the 10th birdied her second, third and fourth holes, to go 3-under through four holes. A bogey on 16th, her seventh hole was quickly repaired with a birdie on18th. On the front nine of the course, Tvesa bogeyed third, but birdied fourth as she was then 3-under through 13 holes and T-4th on the leaderboard. She then dropped fast with bogeys on fifth and sixth and then came a triple bogey on seventh followed by yet another bogey on eighth. It saw her fall to T-55.

England’s Georgia Hall, the 2018 Women’s British Open winner, shot a brilliant bogey free 7-under 65 to take the first round lead over Lydia Hall of Wales, who also had seven birdies, who carded 66 and she had one bogey, too.

Ursula Wiktsrom and Emily Kristine Pedersen are tied third with rounds of 67 each, while three players, Linda Wessberg, Nobuhle Dlamini and Tonje Daffinrud are T-5th with 69 each.

(by arrangement with www.GolfXYZ.in)

Aditi Ashok and Tvesa Malik will be among the four golfers Indian who will fly the Indian flag for the second week in succession as the Aramco Saudi Ladies International golf tournament gets underway on Thursday. Aditi played a stunning round of 8-under 64 and finished T-6th, while Tvesa Malik was T-27th. Also featuring in the field for one million euro inaugural event are Diksha Dagar and Astha Madan at the King Abdullah Economic City near Jeddah.

Moroccan professional golfer Maha Haddioui will make LET history, flying her country’s flag as the first Arabic woman to compete in Saudia Arabia at the inaugural Aramco Saudi Ladies International.

The presence of four Indian women golfers on a regular basis – they will also feature in next week’s event – indicates the growth of women’s golf in India, courtesy the strong domestic Hero Women’s PGA Tour and the more than decade old Hero Womens Indian Open.

Aditi will be the first Indian to tee off alongside Nuria Iturrioz and Olivia Cowan at 7.23 am, while Astha Madan will play with Sarah Schober and Isabella Deilert from the first tee .

Diksha Dagar plays Lina Boqvist and Lydia Hall at 7.45 am but from 7.,45 am and Tvesa tees off with Gabriela Cowley and Luna Sobron Galmes at 11.43 am.

Legendary English golfer Dame Laura Davies is among the star names in the landmark women’s golf events. The four-time Major-winner will travel to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in pursuit of an 86th professional title in a career that has seen her named Ladies European Tour Order Of Merit winner seven-times and represent Team Europe in 12 different Solheim Cups. She will be joined by Swedish two-time Major-winner Anna Nordqvist, as well as a host of other leading golfers.

Laura and Anna Nordquist apart, the field will include stellar names likes Trish Johnson, Esther Henseleit, Georgia Hall, Beth Allen, Charley Hull and Lee Ann Pace besides Becky Morgan, Emily Pedersen and Caroline Hedwall, all prominent winners on the LET.

The Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, which staged the first two men’s tournaments on the European Tour, will be hosting this event also. Haddioui, well-known on the LET as the first Arabic golfer to gain playing privileges after turning professional back in 2012, has enjoyed 101 starts, but this is the first start in Saudi Arabia.

The prize fund this week is the largest of the season, with 108 players competing for $1 million with a further $500,000 on offer next week at the inaugural Saudi Ladies Team International.

(by arrangement with www.GolfXYZ.in)

Diksha Dagar

Diksha Dagar and Aditi Ashok are in with a good chance of finishing in the Top-10 as they begin the final day of the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic late on Friday under the lights.

Late in the second round Aditi finished her second round with a card of 3-under 69 following a 75 on the first day, as did Diksha Dagar earlier in the day. Diksha, too, had a 75 in the opening round.

Tvesa Malik slipped with a second straight 75 and is T-39th and Astha Madan followed her first round 75 with a disappointing 80 is T-51st.

The final day will see all the players go out in three-ball groups at the same time but from different tees.

Astha is paired with Carly Booth and Hannah Burke, while Tvesa plays with Amy Boulden and Emma Nilsson. Aditi is grouped with Lucrezia Colombotto Rosso and Gabriela Cowley, and Diksha plays with reigning Hero Women’s Indian Open winner, Christine Wolff, and Gabriela Cowley, a winner on the Justin Rose Ladies series.

Swede Caroline Hedwall maintained her lead as she added 70 to her first 65 and was now 9-under and one shot clear of Meghan MacLaren (69-67) and LPGA star Minjee Lee (72-65) found her form after a modest 72 in the first round. She shot the best round in the morning with a 7-under 65.

Celine Boutier (67-71) lies fourth at 6-under, while former World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who was 4-under on the first day is 1-under through eight holes in the second round. Also at 5-under are Nuria Iturrioz, who is 2-under through seven holes in second round and Laura Fuenstueck is par through six holes in second round.

In the second round, Diksha had a very eventful round two spurts of birdies – one which saw three in a row and another that had four in a row. Overall, she had eight birdies, three bogeys, all on the front nine, and a double bogey on Par-3 17th.

Aditi had four birdies against one bogey in a steady round.

The world’s first day-night Tour event has an interesting format which sees the professionals pair up with a team of amateurs for first two days and play continues till late into the evening under the lights with the Dubai skyline in the background.

(By arrangement with www.GolfXYZ.in)