India’s Anirban Lahiri overcame a shaky start to post a solid first round score of 4-under 67 for a share of eighth position in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 men’s golf competition on Thursday.
Making his second appearance in the Olympics, Lahiri dropped an opening bogey before finding his stride with a run of four birdies over five holes before making the turn in 33. He sank two more birdies on the 15th and 16th holes against a second bogey at a weather-hit Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Austrian Sepp Straka produced a flawless 63 sprinkled with eight birdies on his card to hold the first round lead as 60 of the best golfers from around the world chase gold, silver and bronze this week.
“It was good. I think I started off a little dodgy the first few holes, and couldn't get my rhythm going early. But then I settled down nicely. I think I played pretty good,” said Lahiri.
“I probably feel like I could have taken some more chances, some opportunities on the back nine. I didn't make as many birdies as I could have. But I'm playing well, so I have to build on this and as you can see already there's a lot of opportunities if it keeps playing like this, soft, there's not much rain today, then you have to go out there and just really be aggressive and make a lot of putts.”
He is determined to earn a podium finish after finishing a disappointing 57th in Rio 2016 after playing with an injury then. Fresh from a season’s best third place outing at the 3M Open on the PGA TOUR recently, the 34-year-old Indian is upbeat he can contend this week.
“I truly feel like a veteran now, because there's pretty much nothing that I haven't played that there is to play,” said Lahiri, who has featured on the PGA TOUR since 2016.
“So to that extent I felt surprisingly calm and relaxed and focused on what I needed to do. So really not that much different, which is a great sign for me because I want to be able to play with that attitude through the week and play my best.”
He feels right at home at the par-71 Kasumigaseki’s East course, and reckons he needs to keep firing at the flags to stay in the medal hunt. “I got a full 36 (holes) in, nine every day the four days leading up to the event, so I felt pretty comfortable on the golf course,” he said.
“Obviously the tournament setup's going to be a little different but I feel like it wasn't as hard as they could make it. So to that extent it was pretty gettable today. I think in the lead up to the last few days, it's been much more windy. Today we barely had any wind, so it was a good day to go out and take advantage. The greens are beautiful, they're perfect, they're rolling great, and the golf course is immaculate. So, yeah, I mean, I'm satisfied, I would have liked to be a couple shots better, closer, but three more days to go,” said Lahiri.
Countryman Udayan Mane shot a 76 to end the day in 60th position.