Royal Lytham (England): Anirban Lahiri's dream debut run at the 141st Open championships continued unabated as the 25-year-old authored the first ace of the event and then brought home an even par round to stay at par for 54 holes, here on Saturday.
Lahiri's effort moved him inside the top-20 with one more round to go.
But his better-known colleague and idol, Jeev Milkha Singh, suffered a lot at the Royal Lytham and struggled to a six-over 76 to lay at seven-over for the tournament.
While the par round was a great achievement for the Bangalore golfer, who has two titles on Asian Tour, Lahiri's big moment came on the ninth, when his 9-iron tee shot landed the ball into the cup for an ace. It was a near replica of the ace shot by Paul McGinley at the same course on the same hole in the 1996 Open Championships.
When asked about the day, Lahiri said, "Yeah, just when I thought that it was fantastic, it gets even better. Like I said right from the start I've been saying it, Thursday, Friday, today, Saturday, it's just been fantastic. That's (hole in one) probably the icing on the cake today."
Talking about his hole in one, Lahiri said, "You're just looking around, you don't know how to express yourself, and then you see your dad jumping up out there blowing you kisses.
These moments don't come every day. The ball is with my dad.
I don't think anybody can take that away from him."
Asked to elaborate on his hole-in-one he said, "I was 2-over coming up to the 8th hole, and walked up the tee, it was almost exactly the same yardage as yesterday. And I was in between clubs again. Yesterday I hit the wedge instead of a 9-iron, and found a greenside trap and made bogey.
"I just told my caddie, we'll take the 9, it doesn't matter if it goes past, I'll just hit it soft. Made a good swing on it. It was looking a little right of the hole, but it got a really, really friendly bounce. I was just hoping it ended up close. When it goes in, everybody goes wild, I go wild, it was fantastic."
Adam Scott made the big move midway through his round. He had made three birdies and moved to 12-under, while overnight leader Brandt Snedeker, who had never made the cut at British Open before this year, had dropped from 10-under to six-under.
Tiger Woods moved into second place after 12 holes at seven-under. Snedeker and Thorbjorn Olesen were tied third at six-under with 2010 US Open champion, Graeme McDowell, but all three still had to finish the round.
South African Zach Johnson (66) was five-under in sixth place with fellow South African Ernie Els at four-under with two holes to go.
Lahiri's mature round of 70 kept him at even par for three rounds and gives him a good shot at becoming only the second Indian to register a top-10 at a Major. Jeev's tied ninth at 2008 PGA Championships is the best by an Indian, and the best by an Indian at the Open is tied 27th by Jyoti Randhawa in 2004.
Interestingly, before Lahiri's ace, Brandt Snedeker who slipped down in the third round, had aced the par-4 336-yard 16th in a practice round on Wednesday. In the 2011 Open, Dustin Johnson and veteran Tom Watson had aces at the Royal St. Georges.
Even as Lahiri was going around the course with patience beyond his years, Jeev admittedly came back "licking his wounds".
A disappointed Jeev said, "I am very disappointed with the way I played. The conditions were perfect for low scoring.
I need to make a move tomorrow. I struggled with every part of my game and I hit some loose shots and did not play the bunkers well. I am licking my wounds right now."
Lahiri in contrast overcame back-to-back bogeys on the third and fourth and then after steadying himself, he found a birdie on eighth before the dream ace on ninth.
Speaking of his game, Lahiri said, "I mean I made three bogeys today, two of them were fairway traps, one on the 3rd, one on the 18th. That's kind of self-explanatory, you don't have a shot out of that. And on the 4th hole, I hit a great shot, it hit the lip of the bunker, and it rolled all the way back to where I didn't have a shot.
"I was right along the back lip of the bunker, about two inches off it, so I had to play outside there, as well. So three dropped shots, three bunker shots that I had to go out sideways without an option. That kind of explains it.
Otherwise I played pretty solid."
Despite the euphoria of an ace, Lahiri managed to calm himself. "I knew I had to calm myself. I just shoved my face into the yardage book and focused on the next shot. Or else I knew suddenly I could lose a shot or two with a five or a six."
Lahiri has had three holes-in-one in tournament play, five otherwise.
He said, "I just want to go out tomorrow and see what best I can do. A good round tomorrow will give me a chance to climb up the leaderboard. I'm really looking forward to that.
I can't ask for anything more than an opportunity, and I'm glad I put myself in that position."
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