For the first time in three days, defending champion Anirban Lahiri made his presence felt in no uncertain terms. He produced a flawless six-under 66 to jump to the second spot, a stroke behind Bangladesh’s Mohammad Siddikur, in the $300,000 SAIL-SBI Open golf championship here.
With four Indians — Lahiri, Khalin Joshi, Rashid Khan and Shiv Kapur — among the top six names on the leaderboard, Saturday holds exciting possibilities.
Friday saw overnight leaders Joshi and Chan Kim falter on the front nine and squander the lead to a steady Siddikur by the sixth hole. Shiv Kapur, who once moved to the sole second spot after four birdies on the first six holes, slipped on the back-nine to be tied fifth.
Siddikur, playing in the penultimate group, owed it to his short game for a third successive 68, including five birdies. He sank a monstrous 40-foot birdie on the 16th for the longest putt of the round.
His lone bogey came on the 13th hole. Incredible was the way he saved par on the 12th from 15 feet after finding the bushes. Again on the par-5 18th, Siddikur took his fourth shot from 35 feet and saved par.
Siddikur was obviously pleased with his score. “I’m so happy. I’ve been very consistent. Yesterday I had 16 greens (in regulation) but today was about 12. But my short game was good,” said the leader.
Reflecting on his 40-foot birdie-putt on the 16th hole, Siddikur said, “I tried to make just a two-putt but it went it. It was a fluke!”
Looking ahead, he said, “I just need to maintain my routine. Conditions are not easy on this course. Till the last hole and last putt, it’s not finished. This course is never easy.”
Lahiri’s flawless 66 was the result of some good iron-play and steady putting. He did not get too ambitious and stayed focussed on creating birdie-opportunities.
“It’s the best I have played all week. I feel I’m getting more comfortable on the greens. Just a couple of bad swings and I got away with pars which was important.
“Four putts kind of stood at the lip but I not going to complain as some fell for me in the end. I’m happy with where I am right now,” said Lahiri after firing six birdies, including three over the last five holes.
Joint leader on the first two days, Joshi began with two successive birdies but a bogey on the third spoilt the youngster’s focus. He went on to drop shots on the sixth and seventh holes.
He started the back nine with a birdie, added another one on the 12th before dropping one on the 15th. The youngster finished with a birdie for a third successive sub-par round.
“I really struggled today,” admitted Joshi and continued, “On the back nine, I got something back. I held things together. I didn’t lose my cool which helped me. It was a tough day overall.”
Chapchai Nirat, who shared the lead on the opening day with Joshi, fired a 67 to come within four strokes of the leader. The 2009 champion has the company of Kapur, whose card included seven birdies and four bogeys.
Leading scores: Mohammad Siddikur Rahman (Ban) (68, 68, 68) 204; Anirban Lahiri (71, 68, 66) 205; Khalin Joshi (66, 69, 71) 206; Rashid Khan (72, 64, 71) 207; Chapchai Nirat (Tha) (66, 75, 67), Shiv Kapur (69, 70, 69) 208; Mathew Stieger (Aus) (70, 71, 68), Chan Kim (US) (67, 68, 74) 209; Pawin Ingkhapradit (Tha) (70, 69, 71) 210.