Former Sunshine Tour campaigner Justin Turner shot a two-under-par 70 on Tuesday to join fellow Silver Lakes golfer Phillip Kruse in the lead on day two of the IGT Tour’s Race to Q-School #4.
The Wanna Be A Champion stablemates took quite diverse routes at Kyalami Country Club to arrive at seven under 137.
The experienced Turner carded an eagle and a brace of birdies on the front nine and ended a run of eight straight pars on the homeward loop with a birdie finish. The amateur, meanwhile, hit less than 50 percent of the fairways, but rode a hot putter to four under 68.
Were it not for a trio of bogeys on the front nine, Turner might have claimed the outright lead but the 28-year-old was nevertheless pleased with his day’s work.
‘It’s been a long while since I’ve been able to walk off a course and say I had a really great time out there,’ said Turner.
‘I took a stumble into a six-foot hole during an event in Zambia last year. Since then, I’ve battled to get over a grade-two ligament tear in my ankle and a neck injury. I had hoped to get back on the Sunshine Tour via the Big Easy Tour, but I didn’t play well at all.
‘So, I’ve got to go back to Q-School in March. Everything left me in a bad head space, so I took a step back and decided to change some things. I started seeing a new sports psychologist, Greyling Viljoen, and he has helped me to get more positive out on the golf course.
‘I used to play mostly on feeling as an amateur, but since I turned pro, I got more and more technical about the game. Every shot I hit had to be technically perfect, so I decided to just go back to playing on feeling and I’m hitting the ball a lot freer again.
‘My game plan coming into this week was to try and put it in the right spots to give myself chances, because if I do it enough times, putts are bound to drop. And I dialled back on the aggression, too, and it all seems to be falling into place for me again.’
Co-leader Kruse put himself in a strong position to shoot for a second victory on the country’s premier golf development circuit this season, despite having a horrendous day off the tee.
The 20-year-old Ebotse Challenge winner interrupted a run of straight pars on the front nine with a lone birdie at the fourth and notched another four birdies coming home.
‘I struggled with back spasms throughout the rounds, so I hit the ball horribly, but the putter was red-hot,’ said Kruse, who hit only six fairways and 11 greens.
‘I putted unbelievably well. I had 21 putts, which is probably the best putting round of my life. My short game was incredible. I must give my caddy Michael de Jongh some credit, though, because he kept me in a very positive frame of mind out there.
‘It was really frustrating, having to scramble like that, but I am very pleased that my short game stood up under pressure. It’s great to be in contention, especially on the Race to Q-School series; the experience and the pressure playing in the last match is really good for my preparation.’
First-round pacesetter David McIntyre returned a 72 to finish one off the pace and Sheldon Steyn from Zimbabwe carded a 69 to get within two shots of the leaders.
A trio of players lag three off the pace, including Damian Naicker (72), Jacques de Villiers (69) and KwaZulu-Natal amateur Matt Saulez (70), while Eric Nel produced a low-round-of-the-day 67 to move into joint eighth at three-under-par 141.
By Lali Stander
All competitors RSA unless otherwise specified and amateurs indicated as AMA
137 – Phillip Kruse AMA 69 68, Justin Turner 67 70
138 – David McIntyre AMA 66 72
139 – Sheldon Steyn (ZIM) 70 69
140 – Jacques de Villiers 71 69, Matt Saulez AMA 70 70, Damian Naicker 68 72