Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Anirban Lahiri of India mastered windy conditions at the Bermuda Championship on Friday, shooting a blemish-free 5-under 66 and 1-under 70 respectively to charge into contention as both seek a first PGA TOUR victory.
The 31-year-old Kiradech was the only player in the field to keep the bogeys off his card at Port Royal Golf Course which experienced high winds of up to 56kph as he soared into tied sixth position and three shots back of co-leaders Ryan Armour and Wyndham Clark who lead on 8-under 134. Lahiri also battled gamely for a second round 1-under 70 for a share of 12th position on 138 as he kept himself in the hunt.
In challenging conditions, Kiradech played some of his best golf as he made birdies on Hole Nos. 2, 5, 12, 13 and 14. He missed seven greens in regulation but scrambled to save par on each occasion to keep himself close to the leaders. “Especially in this condition, I would say this is the best round for me for the whole season. I’ve been struggling a little bit from the beginning of the year. Hopefully today is the turning point,” he said.
Kiradech, the first Thai to play full time on the PGA TOUR card, has endured a lean spell over the past year following a knee injury sustained at last year’s Masters Tournament. He featured in only seven tournaments during the abbreviated 2019-20 Season, opting to stay home in Bangkok during golf’s shutdown to recover from his injury. In his first three tournaments of the 2020-21 Season, Kiradech missed two cuts and finished T70 in the other.
A four-time winner on the European Tour, Kiradech felt comfortable in the windy conditions and his aggressive strategy paid off handsomely. “I just try to make birdies. I know that it really turned my day. I know that everyone is going to get really tough condition and then I play my first 16 holes without bogey and pick up five birdies, which is a good round,” he said.
“This is like Scotland but it’s warm weather. I arrived this morning and I was like, “Are you kidding me? You guys going to play with this condition?” But I realize that I played a lot in Europe and the wind is really similar. Different thing is I don’t have to wear four or five layers.”
He hopes his putter remains hot – he is ranked eighth in total putts per green in regulation through two rounds – as he chases a breakthrough on the PGA TOUR. In 71 career starts to date, Kiradech has finished third on two occasions on TOUR. “I think I rolled the ball quite well. It’s good to be back at the course, and the grass is really similar to Asia, feel like I go back home again. My swing is feeling much better. Everyone knows I’ve been struggling almost a year after I get injury from the Masters and I got a hard time to come back. But this might be a turning point and I can come back to playing real golf,” he said.
Lahiri arrived in Bermuda in good form following a top-10 finish recently at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. He was delighted to produce an under par round to keep himself in the title chase. “I’m quite happy with the way I played. It was tough, really tough. It’s been a while since we played in conditions like this, and it takes me back to The Open at St Andrews in 2015. Today the gusts were up but they kept the greens slow enough and it was borderline playable. It was a grind.”
With the forecast anticipating similar conditions on Saturday, Lahiri is ready to keep grinding. “One of those days when you have to accept whatever you get. I generally played better today. I’ll be looking to hit a few more fairways over the weekend and probably make a few putts. I felt like I haven’t made many putts outside of five, six feet and missed a few inside that range as well. It’s one of those things which has not fallen into place but things are looking good and in the right direction. It’ll be a matter of having a few go in and getting on a roll to gain some momentum. Tomorrow is going to be a windy day again, so it’ll be interesting. I’m excited and looking forward to it and hopefully I can keep my head down and make a bunch of birdies.”