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Playing at a venue, where a victory 18 months ago was the catalyst in lifting him onto the world stage, Anirban Lahiri put himself in contention for his maiden PGA Tour title, when he added a second successive 66 to move within two shots of the lead at the halfway stage of CIMB Classic, here today.
Lahiri who has shot 66-66 at the USD 7 million CIMB Classic, the only event in Asia co-sanctioned by Asian and PGA Tour events, is now Tied-second after 36 holes.
Defending champion Justin Thomas, helped by a closing double bogey by the till-then bogey-free Lahiri, pulled two shots clear of the Indian. Thomas has rounds of 64-66.
The other two Indians Gaganjeet Bhullar (70) was two-under for 36 holes and Tied-54th, while SSP Chawrasia (74) was two-over in Tied-73rd.
Lahiri was poised to tie Thomas but suffered a double bogey at the par five 18th hole, the second straight day he has dropped two shots at the end of his round.
The par-72, 7,005 yards TPC KL is where Lahiri won the Malaysian Open and then added the Hero Indian Open to make the world’s Top-50 and subsequently the PGA Tour.
The 23-year-old American, Thomas, has held at least a share of the lead since last year’s second round, and on Friday he put together six birdies on his card for a 14-under-par 130 total.
Scotsman Russell Knox produced the round of the day with a brilliant nine-birdie 63 to charge into a share of third position with American James Hahn and Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, who both carded 64s.
“I’ve been playing well. Both yesterday and today I’ve played good. I think I played solid right through. It’s just very disappointing to finish the way I did. Both days I think I left four or five shots out there coming in. Yeah, I would have liked to be in a better position the way I’ve played but it’s not over yet,” said Lahiri.
About pushing himself and setting standards, he said, “I expect myself to hit it closer than what I do sometimes. I set myself high standards and sometimes I might look disappointed but it’s a way of me pushing myself to get better. It’s not in any way disrespectful or arrogant. It’s just the way I am. I’ve always been that way.”
Lahiri’s iron play was superb as he found almost all greens and said, “I was very accurate and I put some work in with my coach earlier in the week. Last week was a bit of a struggle. Obviously I seem to be finding my rhythm a lot better. I think having played this course a few times, you kind of know what to do. Yeah, I think if I can keep doing what I’m doing, keep giving myself looks, then I can make a few more.”
Talking of course management and possible rust because of a five-week lay-off, Lahiri added, “Not really. I have played enough now. This is three weeks on the trot, so it’s not that. I think it’s just I have to manage my decision making a little bit better. I hit driver off the tee on 18 and probably wasn’t the right play for me.”
“I’ve been pretty solid otherwise. I guess I just have to focus a little bit harder when I’m finishing up.”
This is Lahiri’s best position through 36 holes on the PGA TOUR, bettering his previous best of T3 at the 2016 CareerBuilder Challenge. Lahiri’s tied second place is despite back-to-back bogeys on the closing eighth and ninth holes in the first round and a double bogey on the par-5 18th to end his second round.
In the 2015-16 PGA Tour season Lahiri made 16 cuts in 21 starts and finished 119th in the FedExCup, to retain his card. The CIMB Classic is his first start for the 2016-17 season.
While Lahiri has dropped four shots in his closing hole on two days, he has been on very good in converting birdies, as he has 25 birds over his last 47 holes since last Sunday, including the final round of Macao.