Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida: India’s Anirban Lahiri is 25 holes away from the victory he so craves for after he seized a one-shot lead at THE PLAYERS Championship which will conclude at TPC Sawgrass on Monday.
Lahiri takes a slender one-shot lead over American duo Harald Varner III and Tom Hoge on 9-under through 11 holes of his third round which was suspended at 7.32pm Sunday due to darkness following multiple weather disruptions since Thursday.
Chasing a maiden victory in what is the PGA TOUR’s flagship US$20 million tournament, the 34-year-old will resume his round on Monday 8am, with the final round scheduled soon after. Lahiri will be chasing to become only the second Indian golfer after Arjun Atwal to win on the PGA TOUR (2010 Wyndham Championship) and the third Asian golfer after Korea’s K.J. Choi (2011) and Si Woo Kim (2017) to win THE PLAYERS.
“Yeah, who doesn't want to win THE PLAYERS Championship?” Lahiri told the media after he brilliantly produced six birdies against a lone bogey in 11 holes of his third round before the siren blew to mark the suspension of play.
“You just don't know. You grind away, you keep chipping away, you keep working on your game, and when it clicks, it clicks. It could be this week, it could be next week. As long as it happens, and that's the belief you've got to have, and that's the commitment you've got to have. I'm just happy that I'm playing well. I'm just happy that I'm hitting my irons well. When you are in that state of mind, you usually play well, and that's what's happening.”
Lahiri holds multiple wins in Asia, including two DP World Tour titles which he achieved in 2015. A two-time International Team player at the Presidents Cup, the tenacious Indian has played full time on the PGA TOUR since 2016 where he has a career best finish of tied second at the 2017 Memorial Tournament and 12 other top-10s through 153 starts on TOUR.
He has struggled with his form in recent times, with his last top-10 being the Barbasol Championship in July 2021 while this season, he has missed seven cuts from 12 starts. In five appearances at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, he has four missed cuts and has a T74 finish in 2019.
However, he is upbeat of the prospects ahead on Monday.
“It's been great. Obviously nice to catch the good side of the draw to start. I think to be honest, going to bed last night I was a bit scared how cold it was going to be (Sunday). I'm not used to playing temperatures sub-40F, and I did struggle a little bit when I came out (to resume his second round), but it was nice to just get back into a good process and a good rhythm. Made a lot of good swings today, just kept it in front of me,” said Lahiri.
The slightest of change made to his equipment earlier this week where he added 3.5 grams of weight to his irons have made a huge difference. The Indian has struck his irons beautifully all week and currently ranks fourth on Strokes Gained: Approach the Green after entering the week ranked a lowly 212th in the stat category for the season.
“I'm just being in the moment right now. I'm really happy -- like I just mentioned, I'm happy, I'm confident. The ball seems to be coming out in front of me, which hasn't happened that much in the past. You know, I'm just going to try and do the same thing: Fire at pins that I'm comfortable with and clubs that I'm comfortable with. When I get an uncomfortable shot then just respect it and try and make a putt. I think that's all I can do,” said Lahiri.
Asked what a victory at the TOUR’s richest and biggest tournament would mean to him and India, Lahiri said: “Obviously it definitely be a career highlight. That goes without saying. This is the next thing to winning a major I would say.
“It would be huge. I think with Every Shot Live, it makes a big difference because people get to watch me play. Even the times that I play well, a lot of people are like, man, I didn't get to see that many shots, and this week they can tune in and see as many shots as they like and every shot if they'd like. I think that makes a huge difference, too. It's not every week that you play well, but you play well in a week where people can actually see golf shots, they can see you play, it makes a bigger difference.”
Anirban Lahiri (-9) 67-73 5-under thru 11
Tom Hoge (-8) 66-71 1-under thru 9
Harold Varner III (-8) 69-69 2-under thru 9
Sebastián Muñoz (-7) 70-73 6-under thru *14
Paul Casey (-7) 70-69 2-under thru 9
Sam Burns (-7) 68-69 E thru 9