Akshay Bhatia: Golfer takes off shirt to play muddy shot — twice.
Shirtless and mud-spattered—golf fans tuning into the Honda Classic on Saturday would have been forgiven for thinking they’d switched to the wrong channel.
Because not once, but twice during his third round, American golfer Akshay Bhatia was forced into 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 landed in the muddy banks on the left side of the fairway. A shirtless shot followed as Bhatia successfully pushed his ball back onto the fairway, the mud splatter across his chest suggesting that taking the shirt off was a smart decision.
An excellent approach and putt saw the world number 357 make a great save, but despite the best efforts of his caddy and a towel, the hole had left its mark on Bhatia. Fortunately, his girlfriend was present with clean clothes and the golfer continued his round.
Bhatia rode the wave of an excellent second round, but effectively saw any chance of a maiden PGA Tour victory collapse over four holes. A run of bogey, par, double bogey and bogey saw Bhatia arrive at the par-three 15th hole needing a big reaction, only for his tee-off to sail over the flag and into the swampy area behind the green .
Almost knee-deep in the mud, this time it was shirt and shoes off for Buhai. Unfortunately, he couldn’t repeat his earlier escape attempt, as his first attempt barely moved a meter.
Buhai finally tapped in for another painful double bogey, later carding a four-over par 74 for the round, but the American was cheered back to the clubhouse by fans.
“Lots of blows. Makes you feel good,” Buhai told reporters. “I feel like my body looks good, and hopefully on TV it looks a bit bigger.
“It’s been great. This is a pretty new experience for me. Just having a lot of fans. It’s funny, [playing partner] Dylan [Frittelli] said, ‘Are you from here? Like how much do you pay these guys to say your name?” And it’s just really cool because I’m very proud.
“It brings warmth to my heart when people call my name and cheer me on. It’s really just a fun experience, and I hope to have more of it.
On the final day 69, Bhatia finished tied for 49th place, 13 shots behind champion Chris Kirk. After taking victory on his first start as a Korn Ferry Tour member at the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic in January 2022 and making his major debut at the US Open last year, Bhatia already has several career highlights.
But his bizarre experience in Florida has kept his options open, according to his latest Instagram message.
“If golf doesn’t work out, try modeling,” the caption read.