Unheralded Anirban Lahiri of India carded an eight under par 63 on Thursday to take a two-shot lead after the opening round of the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre. Ranked 178 in the world coming into the prestigious EPGA event in the Swiss Alps, the 26-year-old from Bangalore built his score around two eagles, including a 140-yard second shot on the ninth that flew straight into the cup.
Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez — who set the course record of 61 on his way to winning here in 2010 — and Englishmen Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood are all two shots back.
“It’s nice to come back here with a bang as it was a tough pill to swallow last year missing the cut in the manner I did, so I’m delighted,” Lahiri said. “I did not get off to a great start today [Thursday] to be one over after four, but then you never really expect to then have two eagles, so I tried just to build on the momentum of that.”
Two-time Ryder Cup winner Thomas Bjoern of Denmark is alone on five-under 66 after firing five birdies during a solid bogey-free round that puts him in early contention Six players, including Spanish veteran Jose Maria Olazabal, Scotland’s Stephen Gallagher and Thailand’s Pariva Junhasavasdikul are a further shot back on 67. The day, however, belonged to Lahiri, who was lying in fourth place after an opening-round 66 last year, but got caught out by a change in weather conditions on day two and ended up shooting an 81 to miss the cut.
“Playing here last year was a new experience for me as I went out in the second morning with about four layers on and after three to four holes I was sweating like a pig,” he said. “The next thing I knew I had to peel off some clothes, but then the clouds rolled in and the wind got up and I started then feeling like an icicle on the back nine.”
“So that was a harsh lesson to learn and hopefully I can make amends this week.” said Lahiri, who only qualified for his first major at last year’s British Open, where he not only made the cut, but scored a hole-in-one during his third round.