Kuala Lumpur: Anirban Lahiri of India kept up his sizzling hot form at the CIMB Classic on Thursday, staying within striking touch of the leaders following a six-under-par 66 at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
The reigning Asian Tour number one, who finished runner-up in Macao last weekend after closing with seven straight birdies, enjoyed a fast start with seven birdies in his opening nine holes before going to eight-under with another bird on his 14th hole of the day.
However, two closing bogeys left him two back of first round pacesetters Derek Fathauer, Keegan Bradley and defending champion Justin Thomas.
Asian Tour honorary member K.J. Choi of Korea and Japanese duo Hideki Matsuyama and Ryo Ishikawa were the next best Asians in tied 16th place after matching 69s. CIMB Classic debutants Jeunghun Wang of Korea and Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei shot a 70 and 71 respectively.
After brilliantly making the turn in 30, Lahiri, who won the Malaysian Open at TPC KL last season, was disappointed with the poor finish.
“That front nine, I could have done a lot more and to finish the day like that is obviously a bitter taste in my mouth. But it’s still a decent start. I would have liked to definitely be a couple shots better, if not three,” said the Indian, who is a seven-time Asian Tour winner.
After safely keeping his PGA Tour card in the recently concluded season, Lahiri enjoyed a second place in Macao following a wonderful finish in the final day with his birdie binge. However, he lost to Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolpraser in a play-off which left him still seeking a first victory for 2016.
“I'm definitely in a good place mentally. It just depends on how long I can sustain it. I had it going pretty much all day and just a couple of loose shots in the end that cost me but it could easily have been a couple of shots better. I have to just try and sustain that over the next 54 holes to give myself a good shot on Sunday,” said Lahiri.
“I've just got to take it one round at a time, whatever happened is behind me, but obviously there's a good, solid amount of confidence coming into this week and I just need to play with that for the rest of the event.”
Korea’s Wang, who played alongside Thomas and Adam Scott of Australia, wielded a cold putter as he carded three birdies. “Just missing the putts. I’ve got no confidence when I’m addressing the ball. I don’t know what’s going on. I’ll spend one hour at the putting green after this to try and work it out,” said the slender 21-year-old, who has won twice this season and is currently fourth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Playing in the featured group proved to be an eye opener too for Wang. “Justin and Adam are long hitters. I feel like I’m a short hitter. It’s a good experience for me. I learned a lot by playing with them. I think I have to go to the gym, starting today. I have to get stronger, be able to hit it longer,” he explained.
Chan, who has won two titles on the Asian Tour this year, was four-under through 12 holes but slipped back when he bogeyed holes 13, 14 and 16 after a misjudging the yardages.
“I felt good on the first nine but I was in some trouble on the par fours. I need to check the yardage better. My game is good. I was four-under at one point and it felt easy so to return on one-under-par is very sad,” said Chan.