The current Asian Tour number one enjoyed a flying front nine with an impressive 31 before losing steam on his homeward nine with one bogey against a birdie on a humid day to finish on seven-under-par 137. He trails halfway leader Justin Thomas of the United States, who shot a sparkling 61, by eight shots.
Scott Hend of Australia, ranked second on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, and Paul Peterson of the United States ended the day tied for 21st place alongside Lahiri following a 70 and 67 respectively at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, West course.
Lahiri, a seven-time Asian Tour winner, will draw from the happy memories of his heroics at the Malaysian Open, held at the same venue in February, where he entered the third round nine shots off the pace but won the tournament with a 14-under weekend that included a third round 62.
“I’m feeling good with my game, energy level is good, which I’m happy about. So hopefully I’ll have another big weekend like I did at the Malaysian Open,” smiled the 27-year-old Lahiri.
A tap-in eagle three on the fifth hole set him on his way but he struggled on the back nine when he bogeyed the 15thhole. A birdie on 17 and a 10-foot par-save on the last gave him a glimmer of hope for a weekend charge.
“I got off to a good start, what I was looking for, really. And on the back nine I was terrible on the greens. I think I gave myself a lot of chances on 10, 11, 13, 14, and just didn’t make anything. I got a little frustrated I think after the 14th hole miss,” said the world number 37, who took 27 putts on the greens today.
“We were standing on the tee for a long time, because a lot of groups got held up as it was drivable. And I just lost my concentration sitting around and got a little stiff. And then I made a bogey on 15 … that’s not what I needed.
“I think it was the way the course is playing, with no rough, it is all down to your putting. Guys are shooting 10, 11-under, because you’re holing those 10, 15 footers. And I think I did some of that on the front nine, but back nine was just absolutely dry. I’ve just got to putt a little bit better,” said Lahiri.
Hend, who knows he must win this week to extend the fight for the Order of Merit crown where Lahiri leads by over US$621,000, shot four birdies but dropped two shots to find himself tied alongside Lahiri and Peterson.
Peterson, ranked 11th on the Order of Merit fired four straight birdies starting from the 18th hole to make a move up the leaderboard. “I just controlled my ball really nice and stuck to my process. And I’m converting really well inside 125 yards right now. So, yeah, just happy with where my game’s at and looking to build in the weekend,” he said.
“I haven’t seen anything, no leaderboard watching. So I know there’s some guys ahead of me and I got some work to do. But, yeah, just looking forward to the weekend and moving up. I’m really, really happy with where my game’s at and just looking and I love this golf course,” Peterson explained.