Big boost for Lahiri ahead of Olympics, finishes T-3 at Barbasol Championship

It was a welcome return to form for Lahiri, who had struggled with COVID-19 in April

Olympic-bound Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri fired a stellar seven-under 65 to finish tied third at the Barbasol Championship for his best result of the season, a timely boost ahead of the Tokyo Games.

Lahiri, 34, made eight birdies, including four over his closing five holes, at Keene Trace Golf Club here on Sunday to end his week on 20-under 268, one stroke behind the playoff duo of Seamus Power and J T Poston.

Ireland’s Power went on to earn his first PGA TOUR title following a six-hole playoff.

It was a welcome return to form for Lahiri, who had struggled with COVID-19 in April.

His third career top-three finish on the PGA TOUR moved him up from 129th to 108th on the FedEx Cup standings. The top-125 will qualify for the lucrative FedEx Cup Playoffs in August and retain their TOUR cards for next season.

"I think all week, I’ve played a little better than the scores I’ve shot. I’ve been a little disappointed with my scrambling and just my score hasn’t been as good as I would have liked it to be.

"I’m not playing next week, off to Tokyo, so I wanted to make sure that I get the most out of this week. I’ve done whatever I could given the circumstances," said Lahiri, who has featured on the PGA TOUR since 2016.

His week’s cards of 68, 67, 68 and 65 marked the first time he has shot in the 60s in all four rounds of a tournament since finishing tied 10th in the 2018 Mayakoba Classic in Mexico.

Lahiri was especially delighted with his ball-striking.

After an opening birdie on the third hole from eight feet, Lahiri rattled home a 32-foot conversion at the next before finishing strongly with six more birdies on his homeward stretch against a lone bogey on 13.

"Yeah, I really needed those," said Lahiri on his strong finish.

"I really enjoyed it. The golf course obviously is set up for a ton of birdies and eagles, so you better be flag hunting and rolling it good. All in all, a great week," said the Indian, a former two-time International Team member of the Presidents Cup.

The Indian will now head to Tokyo at the end of this week for the men’s golf competition from July 29 to August 1 where he is determined to challenge for a podium finish against a stellar line-up featuring newly crowned Open champion Collin Morikawa, World no.1 Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schaufffele, Rory McIlroy and local hero Hideki Matsuyama.

"It’s exciting to be wearing the Tricolours. It’s always a really, really special thing to represent India. Every opportunity that I get, I’m going to grab it with both hands, and hopefully I can go with this form to Tokyo and keep making these birdies because I’m going to need them," said Lahiri, who finished 57th in a field of 60 in 2016 Rio Olympics.

"It would mean everything (to win a medal). I think it would change the way golf is perceived in India. I think it would change the kind of support we get from corporates and the government.

Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira closed with a 68 to finish tied 20th while China’s Bobby Bai, who Monday qualified for his first PGA TOUR start on US soil, settled for a share of 42nd place after a final round 73.

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