Akshay Bhatia: Golfer takes off shirt to play muddy shot — twice.
Shirtless and covered in mud – golf fans tuning in to the Honda Classic on Saturday would be forgiven for thinking they’d tuned in to the wrong channel.
Because not once, but twice during his third round, American golfer Akshay Bhatia was forced to make an impromptu wardrobe change at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
The first came on the sixth hole, when the 21-year-old’s tee drive settled into the muddy banks on the left side of the fairway. After a shirtless shot when Bhatia successfully returns his ball to the fairway, the splash of mud on his chest shows that shirt removal was a smart decision.
A brilliant approach and putt saved the world number 357 brilliantly, yet despite the best efforts of his caddy and a towel, the hole had left its mark on Bhatia. Fortunately, his girlfriend was on hand with a change of clothes, and the golfer proceeded with his goal.
Bhatia was riding an impressive second-round wave, but effectively saw any chance of a first PGA Tour win in four holes. A run of bogeys, pars, double bogeys and bogeys saw Bhatia reach the par-three 15th hole, needing a big swing, only to have his tee shot go over the flag and into the marshy area behind the green. .
Almost knee deep in mud, this time it was shirt and shoes off for Buhai. Unfortunately, he could not repeat his first escape attempt, as his first attempt barely moved a yard.
Buhai eventually tapped in for another painful double bogey, later carding a four-over-par 74 for the round, yet fans cheered the American back into the clubhouse.
“Lots of applause. Makes you feel good,” Buhai told reporters. “I think my body looks great, and hopefully on TV it makes it look a little bigger.
“It was amazing. This is a completely new experience for me. There are just too many fans. this is funny [playing partner] dylan [Frittelli] Was saying, ‘Are you from here? Like how much are you paying these guys to say your name?’ And it’s great because I’m so proud.
“It warms my heart when people are screaming my name, cheering me on. It’s really just a fun experience, and I hope there’s more to come.”
A final day 69 left Bhatia tied for 49th, 13 shots behind champion Chris Kirk. Bhatia already has a number of career highlights, having won the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic in January 2022 in his first start as a Korn Ferry Tour member and making the cut on his major debut at the US Open last year.
Yet his strange experience in Florida has kept his options open, according to his most recent Instagram post.
“If golf doesn’t work out, try modeling,” the caption reads.