Lahiri now more accustomed to rarefied atmosphere

Two eagles on his front nine set Indian up for eight under par round of 63

Anirban Lahiri of India: his eight under par round of 63 included two eagles. Photograph:  Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Anirban Lahiri of India: his eight under par round of 63 included two eagles. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images


India’s Anirban Lahiri struggled to adjust to the effects of altitude during his first few visits to Crans-sur-Sierre but an opening-round of 63 at the Omega European Masters suggests he has got to grips with his difficulties.

The 26-year-old missed the cut on his three previous appearances in the Swiss mountains but this year posted an eight-under total early in the day which was never threatened.

Starting on the back nine, he dropped a shot at the short 13th but immediately eagled the 597-yard next, birdied the 15th and then holed his approach to the par-four 18th for another eagle to turn in 31. He added four further birdies to set a pace which was never really threatened by the afternoon starters.

“Halfway through the round I really got it going,” he said. “I didn’t really get off to a great start. I was one over through four holes and a couple of eagles on the back nine got my momentum going and I’m happy I managed to focus all the way through.

Learned lessons
“I’ve learned my lessons over the last few years: the first couple of years I was lost and didn’t know what to do with altitude and my yardages were all over the place. I have settled down and know what to expect.”

Lahiri has a two-shot cushion over English duo Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood and 2010 champion Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Casey’s front nine of 32 included two birdies and an eagle and he added three further birdies coming home, although a bogey at the 14th slowed his progress.

Fleetwood, winner of his maiden European Tour event at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles a fortnight ago, missed the cut at Celtic Manor last week but fared better in Switzerland.

The 22-year-old bogeyed two of his first seven holes but back-to-back birdies at 17 and 18 allowed him to turn at one under and an eagle three at the first and three more birdies saw him close with a 65 alongside fellow morning starter Jimenez.

Hard week
“I felt a lot better about my game from Monday onwards,” Fleetwood said of last week’s failure. “It was a hard week, I wasn’t prepared for how hectic it would be.

“It was my first win and hard to take and it was a big comedown but hopefully I’ll be more prepared for my next win.

“I have got off to a good start so I need to focus on moving forward this week.”

Another former winner Thomas Bjorn, victorious in 2011, carded a five-under 66 to put him just ahead of a group which included England’s Richard Finch, Ireland’s Michael Hoey, Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher and ex-Ryder Cup captain Jose-Maria Olazabal.

Darren Clarke showed signs of a return to form with a two under par 69 while Padraig Harrington and Gareth Maybin were among a large group on 70.