TPC Southwind (Memphis), Aug 12 (IANS): India's ace golfer Anirban Lahiri was placed tied-86th with 16 others after the opening round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship -- the first of three FedExCup Playoffs event -- with the 35-year-old having his task cut out in Round 2 on Friday.
The India returned a 1-over for the day as he carded 71 even as Korean star Si Woo Kim had an eagle to show as he shared the first-round lead with American J.J. Spaun on 8-under 62 on Thursday.
Lahiri had recently snapped a run of poor form with a tied eighth finish at the Wyndham Championship last Sunday, which had put him in a buoyant mood as he prepared for the FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind. But Thursday's showing would certainly have disappointed the Indian.
The next couple of weeks are crucial for the Asian star as he seeks to qualify for his first ever appearance in the season-finale, the Tour Championship in Atlanta, and also a third appearance in the Presidents Cup for the International Team.
He had spent nearly two weeks in India last month to work with long-time coach Vijay Divecha, partly due to him missing four cuts in five appearances since May. The dismal run spoilt an otherwise strong 2022 which saw him finish an impressive runner-up at Tour's flagship tournament, The Players Championship in March, earning him USD2.18 million. He notched one other top-10 and two top-15s in his next four starts before his game hit a road bump following a break from competition to welcome the arrival of his son, Avyaan in early May.
Meanwhile, Korea's Si Woo Kim saved his best for last with a hole-out eagle. The 27-year-old Kim, who withdrew from the final round of the Wyndham Championship last weekend due to illness, was in sizzling form at TPC Southwind where he capped his day by sinking a 168-yard approach at the par-4 18th hole with an 8-iron in a round that featured seven other birdies and a lone bogey.
"Full swing with an 8-iron. I had good impact and it went in," said Kim of his closing eagle which earned him only his second 18-hole lead/co-lead on the PGA Tour.
He is hoping to become the fourth Korean golfer to win this season and the second successive following young compatriot, Joohyung 'Tom' Kim's victory at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday.
A mid-round decision to change his putting grip paid off handsomely as Si Woo powered home for an inward 28 to mark a career-low nine-hole score and first ever sub-par round at TPC Southwind in seven rounds. It also eclipsed the course back-nine low score by one stroke.
"I think I had a pretty good start which made me comfortable playing the round," said Kim, who started his day with a pair of birdies on Hole Nos. 2 and 3 before dropping a bogey at the next hole. "The putting didn't work out well on the front nine. I was not very comfortable with the grip so without any worries, I changed the grip before getting on to the back nine. That was the turning point. I earned confidence from making some more birdies on the back nine."
The top-70 ranked golfers in Memphis will progress into next week's BMW Championship, where the field will be further reduced to 30 players for the season-finale, Tour Championship. The PGA Tour's ultimate prize, the FedExCup, will be awarded in Atlanta where the winner will also earn USD18 million.