Anirban Lahiri hangs by a slender thread

Aug 12, 2017, 11:51 IST | V Krishnaswamy

Anirban Lahiri rose to the occasion to nail a final birdie on 18th, for the second time in as many days and ensured weekend play at the Quail Hollow in the 99th PGA Championships

Anirban Lahiri. Pic/AFP
Anirban Lahiri. Pic/AFP

Anirban Lahiri rose to the occasion to nail a final birdie on 18th, for the second time in as many days and ensured weekend play at the Quail Hollow in the 99th PGA Championships.

Approaching the famed but dreaded "Green Mile" gingerly Lahiri perched delicately at four-over for the tournament found the much-needed last birdie to finish at 73.

The 30-year-old Indian is now three- over for the tournament and Tied-50th and was sure to make the cut, which was likely at three or four-over.

The 'Green Mile' at Quail Hollow refers to the closing three holes – 16th to 18th. They are among the toughest finishing holes in golf. Of the 156 players, only six played holes 16 through 18 under par on first day and they included leader Kevin Kisner.

After a fairly creditable one-over 72 overnight, it took Lahiri 12 holes to find his first birdie in the second round and he added a second on 18th, which he played as ninth and birdied on Thursday, too.

But before that he bogeyed four times – on the first and then three in a row from seventh to ninth. He was three-over for the second round with three holes left before he parred 16th and 17th and birdied 18th.

Kevin Kisner, who shared the first round lead with Thorbjorn Olesen with 67 each, pulled ahead on Friday morning as scoring continued to be tough at Quail Hollow, a regular venue on PGA Tour, but hosting a Major for the first time. Kisner was four-under through 17 holes and moved to 8-under, while Olesen (four-under) was yet to start second round.

Ironically it was from seventh to ninth where Lahiri recovered from a shaky start on the first day. On Thursday Lahiri starting on back nine was three-over after 15 holes, but birdied the seventh and ninth to card 72.

On Friday, putting woes continued to accompany Lahiri and they dragged him into a danger zone. Four-over for the front nine, he was five-over for the tournament before he birdied the 12th. The cut looked likely at three or four-over though the weather expected to take a turn for the worse with rain and thunderstorms in late afternoon, could push the cutline higher.

Lahiri missed three putts inside 10 feet and one of them, on the first was inside four feet. One of his dropped shots was on the par-5 seventh, and as he mentioned earlier, "One also one needs to score off the par-fives because you are not going to get too many chances."

On Thursday, Lahiri played solid but the scores did not reflect the same. His putting let him down once again as he three-putted twice. Three-over, he still found himself at three-over after 15. Lahiri then closed with birdies on par-5 seventh and ninth for a respectable 72, a score that was also brought in by Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.

Of his first round, Lahiri said, "Frankly I played solid but it was only in the second nine (front nine of the course) that I got going. I had a shaky start but as the round progressed things became better."

"The greens were way firmer as they had dried up as compared to yesterday. I really struggled with the speed of the greens and even left some putts short. What really hurt me on the first nine was the two three putts on the 14th and 17th. Those were costly mistakes, because otherwise the way I played I should have been in red numbers."

Seven players were at 68 and four of them – Brooks Koepka, Grayson Murray, Chris Stroud and Gary Woodland were yet to start their second round.

Players making a move up included Rickie Fowler (two-under through 14) and An Beyong-hun (3-under through 15). Fowler was now in the bunch at Tied-3rd alongside An Byeong at three-under for the tournament.

On Thursday Spieth struggled on the greens during his 72 and McIlroy ended likewise after being one-under at the turn.

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