Indian golfing ace Anirban Lahiri grinded it out on yet another tough scoring day in challenging conditions to card a three-over 75 in the third round and move up to Tied 38th at the Masters, in Georgia.
High winds, which changed direction suddenly, pushed the average score to more than four shots over Augusta National’s par and played to just over 76, more than a shot more difficult than the second day.
That meant Lahiri despite his over par score actually made ground and moved up from overnight Tied-47th.
Lahiri’s 75 took him to eight-over 224 and he is now 11 shots off the leader, Jordan Spieth (73).
At the top, too, there was mayhem but Spieth held on to the lead for the seventh successive round at the Masters dating back to the first round of the 2015 edition.
He had a four-shot lead when he came off the 16th green, but a bogey on 17th and then a double bogey on 18th saw him fall back.
Smylie Kaufman, a PGA Tour rookie, shot the best round of the day at three-under 69 the first round in 60s since Thursday, to be sole second at two-under 214, while veteran Bernhard Langer (70) was tied third with Hideki Matsuyama (72), who also dropped two bogeys in last three holes.
The 58-year-old Langer, who could become the oldest Major winner ever, won the second of his two Masters in 1993, which was before the 22-year-old Spieth was born, while Kaufman, 24, was 16 months old and Matsuyama, 24, was 10 months old.
Coming back to Lahiri, he had two birdies, first on the Par-5 second and the next on Par-4 seventh, besides five bogeys. He bogeyed first, third and fifth and then 15th and 16th.
The stretch between 15-17 has cost Lahiri no less than seven shots in the last three days.
“Well, I played good and shot three-over and I had three three-putts, so it is not as if I played badly. On the contrary, I think I played quite well. I just did not score and didn’t get the putts to fall,” Lahiri said.
Lahiri likened the toughness to a school examination, saying, “It’s like writing an exam. For four and a half hours you have to just grind it out. At no point can you let up even a moment. It is really difficult conditions out there.”
Saying the course did not give anything and one needed to be patient, he added, “Through this week, I have played well enough for 13-14 holes and then had a weak finish and given away a lot of shots each day. It can be mentally exhausting when you have to check so many things like lie, ball flight, wind, when it is changing and so many things, so it is like being in a Brain Gym all the time. There is no option but to be patient.”
Lahiri did have a massive high when his 40-footer dropped for birdie on Par-4 seventh.
“That 40-footer on the seventh was a bit of a bonus. It was one of those things, when you are trying to lag the putt for a two-putt and it just went in,” he said.
That incidentally was one of the toughest holes on Saturday.
Though Lahiri did have one birdie off a par-five (the second), he said, “I have not scored off the par-fives the way I should have. He has had just one birdie on a par-five in three rounds and dropped three bogeys.”
If Spieth wins, he will be the first player to win back-to-back Masters since Tiger Woods (2001-2002) and if Langer wins he would be the oldest and in case the title goes to Matsuyama, he will be the first Asian to do so.
And if Kaufman emerges as the man with the Green Jacket, he will be the first-timer wearing it since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
However, with Jason Day, Danny Willett and Dustin Johnson packed together at even par, and Soren Kjeldsen, Brandt Snedeker and Lee Westwood clubbed together at one-over, no less than 10 players are within four shots off the lead.
And yes, Rory McIlroy (77) is tied 11th with Daniel Berger (74) at two-over, which means five behind Spieth.
Of the other two Asian Tour stars, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (77) slipped up right at the end and Thongchai Jaidee (81) was totally off colour in the third round.
Kiradech, who was in sight of a top-10, dropped from overnight Tied-8th to Tied-23rd after a closing double bogey on 18th.
Thongchai, the highest ranked among the Asian Trio, was battered by the brutal weather and ended with nine-over 81 that had seven bogeys and a double on the closing hole the 18th.
He fell from Tied-42nd to Tied-54th and he 13-over for the tournament.
Just like the first day, Kiradech had four bogeys on the front nine on first, fifth, sixth and eighth.
But this time there was no recovery on the backstretch.
He bogeyed 10th to go five-over.
Birdies on 13th and 14th suggested a revival, but a double bogey on 18th ended those hopes.
Kiradech said, “The weather conditions and wind were very tough and also the pin position was not easy at all. Maybe I can improve my position on Sunday. I have enjoyed the Masters and hopefully I will try to be back again.