Players Championship: Anirban Lahiri opens with solid 69 to be tied 27th; Dustin Johnson in six-way leadhttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/golf/dustin-johnson-finds-putting-touch-to-share-lead-at-players-5172288/

Players Championship: Anirban Lahiri opens with solid 69 to be tied 27th; Dustin Johnson in six-way lead

Dustin Johnson wielded a new putter with precision, notching six birdies for a six-under-par 66, his lowest ever score at TPC Sawgrass on a day when Tiger Woods could manage only a 72.

dustin johnson golf
Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass. (Source: Reuters)

Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri shot a solid 3-under 69 to be Tied-27th even as the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass yielded a lot of low scores on the opening day of the PLAYERS Championships.

While six players including the World No. 1 Dustin Johnson shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 and shared the lead with five others, another six players were a shot behind at T-7th.

However, despite a lot of low scores, some big names struggled and that lot included Phil Mickelson (79), Jordan Spieth (75), Rickie Fowler (74) and Justin Thomas (73) among others.

Amidst this Tiger Woods (72) salvaged his round with a closing eagle on the ninth and he was Tied-69th.

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The leaderboard was crowded with low scores as 14 others shot 4-under to be T-13 and another dozen players, including, Lahiri, carded 3-under to be T-27th.

Lahiri, who exited last year with a disastrous 10 on the final Par-4 18th in the second round, got some revenge with a birdie on it. He had six birdies against three bogeys and was bogey-free on the tougher front stretch of the course, which was his second nine.

Lahiri’s 69 was also his first round in the 60s at the PLAYERS, where he has missed the cut in both previous appearances in 2015 and 2017.

Speaking of his round, Lahiri said, “No, you’re not going to win this tournament on Thursday. I’ll take anything in the 60s. If you can stay in the 60s for four days you’ll be fine. “I think the course will get tougher on the weekend, but I’m looking forward to going out in the morning (in second round). I’m pretty sure that tomorrow morning when we go out it will definitely be a little easier than it was this afternoon.”

Putting, which has been a concern for Lahiri of late, showed marked improvement. “I think that it (putting) was definitely better. I think I’m moving in the right direction. Finally getting more locked in on the speed. I think that’s been my main issue is my speed putting has been a little off.

“As that gets better, I think you’ll see more putts going in. So it was nice to make my 6-footers and to make the last putt about 13 or 15 feet.”

He also holed out a 27-footer on Par-3 third, but missed a couple inside 10 feet. On the ninth, his last hole, Lahiri had a great par save as he drained a 13-footer.

Johnson, whose World No. 1 position can be usurped by at four players pursued with a mathematical chance used a new putting method to ensure a fine score and keep challengers at bay. All departments of his game worked well, but he did leave a shot or two out there.

Sharing the lead with him were Alex Noren, also bogey-free, the 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson, rookie Chesson Hadley, veteran Matt Kuchar, a past winner at PLAYERS in 2012 and Patrick Cantlay, former World Amateur No. 1.

Masters champion Patrick Reed had an eagle on second and a double on ninth in his 72.

Woods, with two birdies, an eagle and four bogeys, was T-69th.

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Asian Tour’s other star, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (71) starting from, the 10th was 4-under through seven holes. That included an eagle two on the reachable Par-4 12th. But Kiradech was unable to keep up that momentum and finished at 1-under 71 in Tied-56th place.