Anirban Lahiri kept the Asian Tour flag flying high as he made the halfway cut despite an errant putter at the 99th PGA Championships. With a closing birdie for the second straight day, though this time it was on 18th, Lahiri finished the first two days with 72 and 73 and safely made the weekend action.
Meanwhile, it was a disappointing day for other Asian Tour players. KT Kim, was three-over and had four more holes to play and he was the only one to have a chance of joining Lahiri in weekend rounds. The 2016 Asian Tour Player of the Year, Scott Hend, who had a 72 on first day, dropped to six-over and will need a few birdies in his last four holes on Saturday morning to make the weekend. Wang Jeunghun (73-75), Thongchai Jaidee (80-73) and Young-han Song (80-77) exited early.
With the course softening up after the rains, there were some very good scores, as Hideki Matsuyama (64) and Francesco Molinari (64), both error-free, scored the week’s low rounds. Matsuyama joined Kevin Kisner, who earlier shot his second 67, to get to eight-under. The PGA Championship winner at Whistling Straits in 2015, Jason Day (66) was sole third at six-under.
Molinari was tied fourth alongside Louis Oosthuizen (67) and Chris Stroud, who has five more holes to play. Rickie Fowler (70), Justin Thomas (66) and Paul Casey (70) were tied at three-under in tied-seventh place.
The course was evacuated on account of dangerous weather conditions at 4.43 pm and about one hour 40 minutes play was lost. Play was suspended because of darkness and 26 players will come back in the morning to complete their second rounds.
Lahiri derived some satisfaction from landing a birdie on both days at the final step of Green Mile — the 18th hole. The last three holes of Quail Hollow — 16th to 18th — are termed as the Green Mile and are among the toughest closing holes in golf.
Once again Lahiri made his recovery on the second nine after rather disappointing front nines. Yet Lahiri said, “I hit the ball even better than yesterday (the first round), but again I had a start where I missed a 3-4 footer for par and started with a bogey. I just didn’t make any putts.”
Through the day, Lahiri missed five putts inside 10 feet, one of them inside four feet, He also missed two others between 10-12 feet and another one of 17 feet.
He added, “My hitting from tee to green was very good and it has been so of late, but I have not made much on the greens. I missed only three fairways in the second round and four in the first round. That should have got me better scores, because if you miss the green it is difficult to chip at times. I gave myself chances but I missed a whole lot of putts inside 10 feet.”
Lahiri started the second at his overnight one-over but immediately dropped a shot on the first hole after missing a four-foot par putt. He managed to hold pars on the next four, but then came a disastrous stretch with bogeys from seventh to ninth, the very segment that provided sustenance a day earlier while serving as his final three holes. On seventh, he went into the rough and missed regulation and on eighth he missed an eight-footer for par and on ninth he missed from just inside 10 feet. At the turn he was four-over for the day and five-over for the tournament.
Managing to control his frustration and banish negativity from his mind, Lahiri once again began damage control on back nine. He found his first birdie on 12th and then followed that up with five pars.
He said, “Walking off the 17th, I knew I was four-over and the cut was likely around that number. But I was not getting defensive. So, on the 18th I hit a good tee shot and I was in between clubs for the second and I picked the right club and got to eight feet to hole the putt.”
Defending champion Jimmy Walker made a 12-shot improvement on his first round 81, but still missed the cut. Other big names missing the cut included Justin Rose (76-72), Bubba Watson (77-72), Sergio Garcia (75-75) and Danny Willett (73-79). Old warhorses Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els also missed cut on their 100th Major appearance.