Anirban Lahiri hopes simplifying his golf swing and thoughts will finally land him a PGA TOUR victory.
The 33-year-old Indian fired a second successive 3-under 69 in the third round at the Valero Texas Open on Saturday to move up three rungs to fifth place on 7-under 209, giving him a legitimate crack at the title.
Jordan Spieth and Matt Wallace share the lead on 12-under following matching 67s, with Charley Hoffman, a winner here five years ago, two back in third place.
After taking last week off, Lahiri has shown marked improvements with his ball striking that he ended his round feeling like he should have been a couple of shots closer to the lead. He missed several putts from inside of 12 feet but was still upbeat after plodding his way around TPC San Antonio with four birdies on Hole Nos. 4, 11, 14 and 17 against a lone bogey.
“I’m really happy with the way I played. I think this is the most solid I’ve played tee to green in a while. I felt really calm and, you know, I kind of knew what I was doing and it’s really nice. I do feel like I left quite a few shots out there. I hit it really good. So yeah, I think I would have liked to be maybe two, three shots better, but still got a look at it tomorrow. If I can go out and do the same things I did today, maybe make a couple more, it would be nice to get in the hunt,” said Lahiri.
Entering the week, Lahiri ranked 150th on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green but the two-time Presidents Cup International Team member has been working hard on simplifying his swing thoughts with long-time coach Vijay Divecha, who lives in India. Through three rounds, he ranks 30th in the stat category, and seventh in putting.
“I know the results haven’t showed it, but I know I’ve been getting better. My ball striking hasn’t been anywhere near my usual standards. I think I just got down to it with my coach. We’ve been doing a lot of work back and forth and just trying to simplify things. I think I was making things more complicated than they need to be and I think that’s been the key this week. A golf course like this is really good if you can have good strategies and that’s really helped me.”
Since making his PGA TOUR debut in 2016, Lahiri, a seven-time winner in Asia, has come close on a few occasions to joining countryman Arjun Atwal as a winner on the world’s premier golf circuit. He holds a career best finish of T2 at the Memorial Tournament in 2017 but has largely struggled this year with five missed cuts in seven starts.
With Spieth chasing a 12th PGA TOUR win and his first since 2017 and Wallace hunting for a maiden title, Lahiri knows he needs a solid performance to stay in the mix on the back nine Sunday. “I mean, there’s a lot of good players. I’m just going to have to come out with a clear plan on which holes to attack, which holes to kind of be maybe a little more conservative. The idea is just to, you know, when you start coming back towards the clubhouse when you get to 15, you want to have a shot at it. And quite honestly, that’s my goal. You know, on the homeward stretch, if I can give myself a look, I’m pretty sure I can get it done.”
Korea’s K.H. Lee sits in T21 on 3-under after a 70 in the third round while Si Woo Kim, Sung Kang and Hideki Matsuyama are a further shot back following rounds of 70, 72 and 73 respectively.
Third-Round Notes – Saturday, April 3, 2021
Weather: Cloudy. High of 71. Wind ESE 10-20 mph. Due to thunderstorms, the start to the third round was delayed 2 hours, 30 minutes and began at 12:13 p.m. CT.
Matt Wallace 69-68-67—204 (-12)
Jordan Spieth 67-70-67—204 (-12)
Charley Hoffman 75-66-65—206 (-10)
Cameron Tringale 66-69-73—208 (-8)
Anirban Lahiri 71-69-69—209 (-7)