Big guns move into position for a shot at glory in Turkish Open

Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter in a four-way tie for lead while Tiger Woods is one adrift following a 63

 Tiger Woods  hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Course in  Antalya, Turkey. Photo:  Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the Turkish Airlines Open at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal Course in Antalya, Turkey. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images


The marketing gurus couldn’t have planned it any better. As the sun replaced the opening morning’s thunderstorms, the gathering of the sport’s elite here in the Turkish Airlines Open – on a manicured course which embellishes Colin Montgomerie’s design portfolio – rose to the challenge.

Tiger. Henrik. Poults. All of them elbowed their way into contention, with the extra dimension of Ian Poulter’s chase down of Henrik Stenson’s lead atop the Race to Dubai rankings adding to the intrigue.

On a day when the unfinished business of the first round was completed, the second round – which saw Tiger Woods leapfrog his way through the field with a 63 – produced a quartet of players sharing the midway lead on 132, 12-under-par : Stenson, Poulter, Justin Walters and Victor Dubuisson. Woods’s endeavours left him lurking menacingly, a shot further adrift.

Strange deeds
This was a day of strange deeds, one of which included Shane Lowry discovering a broken putter in his bag as he finished his pre-round routine on the practice putting green. With only eight minutes before his scheduled tee-time, his caddie Dermot Byrne was dispatched to the pro shop to find a putter.

It proved a problematic replacement, with Lowry using the blade 34 times before returning it to the shop and glad to see the back of it.

In signing for a 75 for 147, on a day when low scoring was the norm, Lowry fell towards the depths of the leaderboard.

“The head was bent, broke, unusable,” said Lowry, who put his hands up and accepted responsibility. The act, it seemed, had been perpetrated in frustration at the end of his round on Thursday after a three-putt finish. The damage was only discovered as he readied himself to start his second round.

Lowry’s woes on the greens were obvious as he struggled with the newly acquired Ping model rather than the TaylorMade he had used since the Dunhill Links.

“The problem is my (broken) putter is really, really upright. And I putt cack-handed. And this thing was probably the flattest putter they’ve got in Turkey. Honestly, I had to use the conventional grip for the back nine because I was trying to putt cack-handed and couldn’t get the ball on line. I had to use a conventional grip which I haven’t used since I was 18.”

He added: “It’s the only week of the year I didn’t bring a spare putter. It is annoying, because it is my own fault. I probably deserve it. It is a lesson.”

For his part, Pádraig Harrington – who answered a 4.45am wake-up call to finish his first round with a 68 – overcame the loss of a ball on the 14th, which led to a double bogey six, to sign for a 70 that left him on 138, six-under-par. Damien McGrane shot a 73 for 143.

Requiring a top-10 finish to get into next week’s Race to Dubai finale, Harrington lamented what might have been.

“I probably left four shots out there,” he said, referring to that lost ball on the 14th where he hit it into a waste area but also his failure to hole a number of birdie opportunities. ”

Harrington heads into the weekend with some work to do if he is to achieve a top-60 on the moneylist and make the season closing DP World championship in the desert.

More intrigue
Of rather more intrigue is the duel developing between Stenson and Poulter in the money race. Poulter has been spurred on, by a side bet he struck with the Swede. It came about when playing a practice round at Lake Nona – where they both have properties – in which Poulter wagered $100 at 10/1 that he could catch Stenson, a seemingly runaway winner of the order of merit at the time.

“I told him I’m going to chase him down, because he was so far in front. I like to make these silly things. He said he’d like to take the bet on and I said, ‘I need some odds’. He said he’d give me ten to one, so I had a little hundred bucks. But I also said, ‘Look, if I do manage to catch you and pass you, we will have a nice night out and you have to pour my drinks for the evening’. I think a thousand bucks isn’t an issue to him but pouring my drinks all night might be a big problem,” said Poulter who made inroads on Stenson’s lead with a runner-up finish in last week’s HSBC and has continued that form here with back-to-back 66s.

Stenson is also battling with an injured wrist. He admitted, “It’s not in great shape, but it’s playable and I hope it doesn’t get any worse. One day at a time, one shot at a time!”

Woods, who stayed up late to watch a college football game involving Stanford University, showed no evidence of tiredness in playing 25 holes, completing his first round – with a 70 – and then going out again to fire a bogey-free 63.

“That could have been so special. But I’m right there. I’m only one back. It’s bunched.” The smile spoke volumes. He is in the thick of it. Just where he likes to be.