While the attention of the golfing world was on the pursuit by Tiger Woods and the duel between Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter in the Turkish Airlines Open, Justin Walters flew under the radar to his second successive 66 on Friday to grab a share of the halfway lead.
The man who pulled off a second place in the Portugal Masters shared the lead with the hottest player on the planet in 2013, Stenson, as well as with Poulter and Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. Woods, after his second-round 63, and fellow South African Richard Sterne were one shot back on 11-under-par for the tournament.
“I’m very excited,” said Walters. “I’m very happy with my game and how I stand after two days, especially amongst such a strong field. I haven’t had too much experience with that, so I’m super chuffed.”
He completed his first round – delayed because of gloomy weather – with a disappointing bogey on 18, and then picked up two bogeys in his opening nine of the second round. But he was making birdies, too: four on the opening nine saw him turn in three-under-par 32, and then four more on the longer back nine, and one bogey made up his 66.
“There are a lot of chances out there, certainly if you drive it well,” he said. “Then if you hit a few good shots, there are a lot of opportunities. Most of the par-fives are reachable, so if you can put some good drives out there, then you can attack.
“I liked the look of the course when I got here, and it reminded me of Portugal, which I have such good feelings from a month ago. It’s one of the most beautiful courses I’ve played in a long time. It’s so well-manicured – I’m really enjoying being here.”
Walters’ second place in Portugal came hard on the heels of the death of his mother, which made that performance especially emotional. And it seems to be repeating itself in Turkey. “On Monday, we had Mum’s memorial service, so I almost came into this week with a very similar mind-set – to just play and enjoy it,” he said.
“It’s such a bonus for me to be playing in this event, and I’m really appreciative of whatever comes my way,” he added.
What might come his way if his performance level holds is in fact a spot in the lucrative season-ending DP Dubai World Championship – ninth or better would get him in. “My caddie’s being doing the calculations,” he said. “I’ve tried to stay away from that, because, they was I look at it, if I get in, it’s another massive bonus, and if I don’t, it’s a week off with my family and we all kind of need each other at the moment.
“So I’m just going to go and play, and if it all happens, I’ll be very happy. And if it doesn’t, so be it. I’ll just go home to South Africa and put my feet up for a week, which I’m looking forward to as well.”