South African trio Justin Harding, Erik van Rooyen and Zander Lombard are well played placed heading into moving day at the Turkish Airlines Open, writes LALI STANDER in Turkey.
Harding went out in 29 strokes and fired a five-under-par 65 at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal to catapult to joint sixth on 10-under.
The reigning Qatar Masters champion will start the third round just two shots off the pace from overnight leader Matthias Schwab, whose rounds of 65 and 67 moved the Austrian one stroke clear of the four-way tie on 11-under.
Van Rooyen signed for bogey-free 67 to sit a further three shots back in joint 25th.
‘It’s really such a pity about that double on 13 in the first round, because that bit me. Otherwise I’ve been playing really well and I’m pretty proud of my bogey-free round today,’ he said.
‘My caddie and I have had a side-bet going for the season and I’m six out of 10 now, so I won’t mind another one or two this week. I’ve been putting well, but not much seems to be going in. I feel that if I can get the putter rolling this weekend, it should be a lot of fun.’
The 2018 European Tour Rookie of the Year broke through for a maiden win in the Scandinavian Invitation and ranked 10th in the Race to Dubai coming into the third last event of European Tour’s Roles Final Series.
Another strong performance this week could see him even higher in the standings ahead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City next week and the season-ending DP World Tour Challenge in Dubai.
‘It’s a huge week for all of us, and this course lends itself to some great scoring, so expect another exciting finish on Sunday,’ Van Rooyen said.
‘I played the Turkish Airlines Open for the first time last year at the Regnum Carya, so I didn’t know this course, but I’ve had a good look at it in the last three days. It’s really scoreable if they don’t get ridiculous with the pin placings.
‘There are five par fives and they are all reachable in two for the longer hitters. If you can take care of the par fives and pick up a few shots on a couple of the driveable par fours, you’ll be in with a shout. I think even if you are five back coming down the stretch, you’re still in it. There’s plenty birdies out there, so you just need to basics well and the score will sort itself out.’
A birdie on the par four third and eagle on the par five fifth kicked Harding’s round into high gear.
‘I made six on the fourth hole in the first round and I had the same yardage, but I went with a 3-iron instead of soft 3-wood. That did the trick. I rolled in a 25-footer and turned to my caddie Alan and said that should have been the club,’ said the 33-year-old, who reeled in three birdies on the bounce from the sixth to turn six-under.
‘I was very annoyed when I missed a three-foot putt on 10, which is otherwise a gimme for me. I would take in a Saturday social game, but not here. But I’ve had my problems in the greens in the last couple of months.
‘I lost my head a little bit and a bit of momentum, but it felt good to birdie 13 and 17. I’m happy with a seven-under par. I missed a few and made a few, and I got lucky to get away with par on 18 after hitting it into the trees. A lot of guys were going deep, so it’s nice to be in there with a chance after two rounds.’
Lombard, meanwhile, went six shots better than his opening 73. The Pretoria golfer offset bogeys eight and 17 with seven birdies to break into the top 50.
Successive rounds of 71 left George Coetzee in a tie for 52nd with compatriot Richard Sterne, who returned a level-par 72.
Analucia Masters winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout, 12th in the rankings at the start of the week, carded 75 to slip to 70th while Justin Walters added a 73 to his opening 75 for 74th place.