San Antonio (Texas), April 3 (IANS) India's golfing star, who finished runner-up at The Players Championship three weeks ago, made three birdies on his homeward nine at TPC San Antonio to sit on 6-under 210 after three rounds as he chases a first PGA Tour victory at the Valero Texas Open.
The 34-year-old Lahiri bounced back into the fringe of contention following a third round of 3-under 69 on Saturday to be tied 16th along with four others.
Four players -- Brandt Snedeker (67), Beau Hossler (67), Dylan Frittelli (70) and J.J. Spaun (69) -- share the third-round lead at the USD8.6 million tournament with three-day totals of 10-under 206. South Korea's Si Woo Kim hit five birdies for a 68 to lie in tied seventh position, three back.
Lahiri entered the week hopeful of landing a first win following a memorable outing at The Players where he finished second to Cameron Smith of Australia and earned a career high USD2.18 million.
After trading two birdies against as many bogeys on his front nine, Lahiri produced some wonderful iron play to snare birdies on the 10th, 17th and 18th holes following putts from inside of nine feet.
"It's nice to get a couple (of birdies) in. I've just kind of struggled the last couple of days with my mental energy as I was ill all of last week. I think yesterday on the back nine especially, I started feeling that wave of exhaustion having recovered from illness, so I think today my caddie did a great job of fuelling me and keeping my energy up and I was able to kind of push myself," said Lahiri.
Changes made to the set-up of his irons -- he added 3.5 grams of weight to the clubheads -- since The Players have worked like a charm as he is presently ranked inside the top-30 for Strokes Gained: Approach the Greens through 54 holes. He ranked 159th in the same category at the end of last season.
While he is four shots back with 18 holes remaining, Lahiri feels he can put in a low number on Sunday (Monday IST) to potentially challenge the leaders. The winner of Valero Texas Open will earn an exemption into next week's Masters Tournament, which is also on Lahiri's mind.
"I feel like I'm playing really, really well but I just haven't played very sharp. Yesterday, I struggled a little bit on the greens and today, I didn't quite take advantage of some of the holes that I would have liked to," said Lahiri, who finished fifth in the event here last season.
"I feel like I'm playing at 70 per cent but having said that, to come in with a round in the 60s on the weekend here is always good. I'll try to shoot 63 or something tomorrow because you never know out here. There are lot of birdies to be had on the back nine. I have to get to the teens to maybe have an outside chance but I'm just happy with my golf right now. I'm obviously feeling good with my game. Just try and bring that together and play an error-free round and make some putts. It'll be nice to hit a low one."
Four players tied for the 54-hole lead is the most on the PGA Tour since the 2020 RBC Heritage.
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