As he stood near the practice green summing up the day, Jbe Kruger approached Anirban Lahiri. “How did it go,” he asked. The mention of a 65 had the South African put on a mock act of reverence. Kruger started to back off, the raised hands indicating that Lahiri was not a name to be trifled with. All smiles, Lahiri turned away and continued to dwell on his “equation” with the Delhi Golf Club. “It seems I’ve finally made friends with the bushes here.” After a pause, he went on to add, “But then, you never know.”
Despite the tinge of uncertainty, the opening day of the Panasonic Open was an extension of the momentum acquired over the past two weeks. Starting with the strong finish (sole 6th) in the SAIL Open here, to the title on the domestic PGTI Players Championship in Panchkula, Wednesday was a throwback to Day One of the SAIL Open, where he finished leader with a 66.
Solid hitting off the tee, which Lahiri termed was “nothing fancy but good ball striking”, meant he was quick off the blocks. An opening-hole birdie set him up and the going got better as he sailed to another on the 8th, and to five more after making the turn. Picking up shots on the 13th and 14th, he rested his case with three consecutive birdies.
Through the day, Lahiri hovered close to the pin; the longest putt he sank (on the 18th) was from 20-feet. The course playing “softer and better" than it did during the SAIL Open, may have worked to the players’ advantage, but the unforgiving rough demanded tact. “Getting out of it (rough) could be a struggle, so it was important to keep the ball on the fairway,” he said. Following the diktat came with its rewards as Lahiri came away with a spotless card.
The night before had been spent warding off mosquitoes, but that wasn’t a deterrent. The mind and body in sync, courtesy the hours of fitness training, Lahiri showed few signs of fatigue. “The muscle control and memory is better when one’s in a better shape and it spills over to the game too,” he said.