Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri’s hot putter got him off to a flying start at the Sanderson Farms Championship, leaving him Tied-7th after the opening round.
A bogey free 66, one of his best starts in last four years, saw him two shots behind co-leaders Charley Hoffman and Jimmy Walker, who started from different ends of the course but came back with similar results of 8-under on Thursday.
Later, Kevin Chappell and defending champion Sebastian Munoz joined him at the top for a four-way lead. Matt Gligic of Canada is fifth at 7-under.
Lahiri was tied for seventh with JT Poston, Keegan Bradley, Cameron Davis and Talor Gooch.
Lahiri knows he needs a good result each week to get into the following week and he is embracing the pressure.
Playing at the Sanderson Farms for only the second time he was T-45 last year – Lahiri said the Country Club of Jackson reminds him of golf courses he grew up playing on in Asia.
“This is the kind of a start I was have been looking for and trying to get with good starts. Even though the game has been there for last couple of starts, there has been a little bit of volatility. So to open with a bogey free round I am happy.
“I have put in a lot of work in my iron play. I had a chat with my coach Vijay Divecha and my short game coach is here on site and he gave me some of his observation. That was the main point, not of concern, but inconsistency.
“So, it was good to see myself hit some good iron shots and it was very satisfying. Otherwise relatively stress free, even though the course is a little tricky, but playing in morning it was soft.”
Lahiri will need another Top-10 like last week to get a start at the Shriners Hospital Open in Vegas next week.
“I find myself in a weird place in terms of my eligibility. You know, I obviously haven’t had very good seasons the last couple of years and I missed a bunch of events.
“I have to just kind of play my way into events, and that’s really the first priority, to have the right kind of schedule, to have a full go at the golf courses that I like to play and just get back to contending or getting into contention. So there’s a lot of those goals and they really motivate you.”
Lahiri, who had had two birdies on the front nine and four more on the back nine, besides missing a couple of other makeable ones, said, “It was lots of good combinations. Obviously confidence is up. I feel like I’m playing really well.”
The highlight was his excellent form around the greens. It included a brilliant 24-foot birdie putt on Par-3 seventh and chip-in birdie from the fringe 31 feet away on par-4 12th.
Lahiri found only half the fairways but reached 15 of the 18 the greens in regulation and whenever he was more than 15-20 feet from the pin, he did well to get into tap-in range and made no mistakes.
He did miss a nine-footer on Par-4 second and a 10-footer for birdie on Par-5 fifth. Yet the work he has put into his game during the lockdown is beginning to pay off. Later his 26-foot putt for birdie on 16th stopped an inch short on the lip of the hole.
On the turnaround in form, Lahiri felt, “I think the lockdown really helped me. I was in India for five months. I left pretty much the Monday after Bay Hill to go play the Hero Indian Open and then we got locked in. They closed the borders down. So I was there for a long time.
“Spent about 40 days straight with my coach (Vijay Divecha) before I came back out here, and I got back to the basics, undid a lot of the bad habits that had crept into the game and just tried to clean up the game, clean up the mind and just prepare.”