Lahiri tied 7th after flying start, Woods 14th

Landing six birdies against a solitary bogey, Lahiri was three shots behind the leader and the two-time WGC winner, Ian Poulter.

The 65 was Lahiri’s lowest round at Firestone and his lowest opening round this season.   -  AFP

Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri shot a fine five-under 65 to position himself in tied-seventh place after the opening day of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, here.

Landing six birdies against a solitary bogey, Lahiri was three shots behind the leader and the two-time WGC winner, Ian Poulter, whose eight-under 62 tied the record for lowest first-round score in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

India’s other player in the field, Shubhankar Sharma shot two-over 72 and was T-63rd in the 71-man field. Sharma had two birdies against four bogeys in his third WGC appearance.

Tiger Woods, T-6 at the Open last month, and an eight-time winner at Firestone opened with a 66 to sit at T-14. Woods beginning on No. 10, sank a 50-foot birdie putt from off the green at No. 18 to make the turn in three-under 32. His only bogey of the day came at his last hole, No. Nine.

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Englishman Poulter produced his lowest round in eight years with eight birdies and no bogeys as favourable scoring conditions resulted in a lot of low scores. Poulter’s 62 was his best since 2010 UBS Hong Kong Open, where he had a second-round 60 en route to lifting the trophy.

Americans Kyle Stanley and Rickie Fowler were in a tie for second on seven-under par after shooting opening 63s, while Spain’s Jon Rahm, American Patrick Cantlay and South Korea’s Si Woo Kim were, then, another stroke back on six under.

Lahiri and six others Rory Mcllroy, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman, Luke List and Kevin Na shot 65 each to be T-seven.

The 65 was Lahiri’s lowest round at Firestone and his lowest opening round this season. This is his third appearance in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he finished T-53 and T-33 in 2016 and 2015, respectively. He was T-five after the opening round in 2016 following a 68.

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Playing his ninth WGC, he has been T-28 three times for his best result. Chasing his first win on the PGA Tour, Lahiri has had three top-10s this season — at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in South Korea and Travellers Championship.

Lahiri’s play was a mix of great second shots and when he did miss the green in regulation, he chipped well enough to find up and downs and pars. He missed only a chip on the 10th after missing the fairway and did not have a good lie. He made his only bogey there.

Barring the birdie putt on ninth from 15 feet, the rest of the birdies came from well inside 10 feet, highlighting some good iron play.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama opened with a three-under 67 for T-21. FedExCup points leader and World No. One Dustin Johnson opened with a one-under 69 for T-39, while The Open Championship winner Francesco Molinari (70) was T-46. Among other Asians, Korean Si Woo Kim 64 was at T-fourth and China’s Haotong Li (66) T-14.

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In Fiji

Indian golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar recovered from a shaky start to card three-under 69 for a share of the fifth spot at the midway stage of the Fiji International tournament, here.

Bhullar stands five-under overall. He is six shots behind the runaway leader Kiwi Ben Campbell, who shot 67 after his first round 66 to get to 11-under.

Of the four Indians in the field, Ajeetesh Sandhu (73-73) was the only other one to make the cut, while Shiv Kapur (80-72) and Chiragh Kumar (77-80) missed out.

Bhullar, on his maiden visit to Fiji, is enjoying some unexpected fan following. ‘Bula’ in Fiji means ‘Hello’ and it rhymes well with his surname.

The eight-time Asian Tour winner smiled and said, “Every time I’m here (at the golf course), every third person is calling out my surname, ‘Bula, Bula.’ It’s very good. I’m enjoying myself. My wife is here and we are enjoying ourselves, having a great time. It’s a great place.”

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Campbell, whose sole professional win came earlier this year at the NZ PGA on Australasian Tour, shot 33-33 on either side of the turn and he may well have been a shot better, but for his sole bogey on the 18th.

Right behind him is Australian Andrew Dodt (67-70) in sole second at seven-under 137, while two other Australians Terry Pilkadaris (70-68) and Jarryd Felton (67-71) are Tied-third at six-under 138. Bhullar and six others are Tied-fifth at five-under 139.

“I had a shaky start to the round, I started with a bogey and then I had another bogey on No. Three. Three-under 69 is not a great round, but I think with 36 holes to go, I’m in a good position,” he said.

On the fine season he is having, Bhullar smiled and added, “I’m doing exactly the same stuff I’ve been doing all these years. For some reason, the ball is going in the hole more often. Yeah, the last one and a half to two months have been really good. I have two runner-up finishes and let’s see what’s next.”

Three-time Major winner and the Natadola Golf Course designer, Vijay Singh (76-72), made the cut despite bogeying his last hole, the ninth. Ernie Els (72-70) was T-20, while defending champion Jason Norris (72-76) made it on the line.