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