May 5, 2016 / 7:37 PM / in 2 years

Indian Lahiri one-shot back of Quail Hollow leaders

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Anirban Lahiri, who felt he was overdue for a low score, shot a 66 to trail American co-leaders Steve Wheatcroft and Andrew Loupe by a stroke after the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

Apr 10, 2016; Augusta, GA, USA; Anirban Lahiri hits his tee shot on the 2nd hole during the final round of the 2016 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

On a cool and breezy day when defending champion Rory McIlroy battled for a 73, India’s Lahiri enjoyed a flawless six-birdie performance on a damp Quail Hollow course on Thursday.

“Anytime you have a bogey-free card, it’s fantastic,” said Lahiri, who played in slightly tougher morning conditions. “I’ve played mediocre or average golf the last few months. I definitely feel like I should be competing more consistently.”

“The stuff my coach and I worked on after the Masters, when I took a couple of weeks off, it’s beginning to come together ... I feel like my game’s gotten better every week.”

Lahiri, ranked 55th in the world and playing in his first full season on the PGA Tour, is the top-ranked Indian and excited at the prospect of representing his country at the Aug. 5-21 Rio Olympics.

The Olympics is the last thing on the mind of Loupe and Wheatcroft, both non-winners on tour, who took different routes to carding a seven-under-par 65 in the afternoon.

Though Wheatcroft is the shorter hitter of the two, he had two eagles, holing out from 40 yards at the par-five fifth, and almost holing his second shot at the par-five 10th.

McIlroy could have used some similar magic. A day after celebrating his 27th birthday, he plunged to four over after playing the more difficult back nine first, but he improved on the inward half.

“It sort of was a tale of two nines,” the Northern Irishman said. “I’ve been working a lot on the range and I was still in range mode on the front nine. I didn’t have my scoring head on.”

McIlroy and the other members of his group, American Rickie Fowler and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, had a bizarre experience on the sixth hole when a member of the gallery threw a golf ball onto the tee.

”Yeah, it was sort of weird,“ McIlroy said. ”That’s never really happened to me before.

“It was a golf ball with an ear plug stuck on it, so it was sort of strange. Charlotte’s finest (police officers) sorted it out and got him off the property, thankfully.”

Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes and Frank Pingue

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