As if prompted by premonition, Anirban Lahiri hastened to add a rider as he spoke about befriending the dreaded bushes of the Delhi Golf Club. "It seems, I've finally made friends with them," were the words. "But, you never know," was the quick afterthought.
Going into Thursday with a 65 and two-shot lead, the unpredictability of this quaint venue hit Lahiri early and rather hard. The peace pact with the dense vegetation stayed intact but it was the wind that rocked his boat. "The wind was howling from all over the place and the same holes which people were making birdies in the morning, wasn't easy in the afternoon," he said.
Opening with a bogey did not help and if the birdie on the 12th appeared to stem the slide, another dropped shot three holes later pegged him back further. "I'd like to know how many players from the top-20 are from the afternoon session," was the anguished outcry. To make matters worse, the swirling gusts made the "par-fives play 50-60 yards longer", but Lahiri was lucky to make par.
Aware that Mardan Mamat had run away with the morning session with a 65, which placed him four clear of America's Ben Fox, Lahiri was in a better state to strategise after making the turn.
The twin birdies on the 3rd and 8th not only allowed the 23-year-old join the league of Fox, the revival left him profusely thankful. "I am happy to be where I am, as it could have been very easy for me to go the other way."
The sub-par round swept aside the pressure that had built up during Day II of the Panasonic Open, and armed him with a blueprint for the road ahead. "I have to focus on the greens and if I can hole more putts, I can put some pressure on Mamat," he said.
Progress or regress, the route Lahiri takes will be known on the morrow, but Mamat, the 2004 Indian Open champion, announced his intent with another strong finish. A 67 against the name, the broad-shouldered Singaporean bettered his prospects by lopping off two strokes from the previous day's card.
"The front nine kept my confidence (he had an eagle on the 8th) and the way I've putted over the two days is pleasing," said the 43-year-old father of five.