Masters champion Danny Willett believes he is close to rediscovering his best form after an encouraging first round in the £5.7million Turkish Airlines Open.
Willett, who needs to finish outright fifth or better in Antalya to regain top spot in the Race to Dubai, carded a two-under-par 69 at Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort to end the day five shots behind South Africa’s George Coetzee.
The 29-year-old had led the money list since claiming his first major title at Augusta in April, but suffered what he described as the worst week of his career last week to be overtaken by Open champion Henrik Stenson.
Stenson was joint-second in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai as Willett finished 14 over par and 75th in the 78-man field, turning the Swede’s deficit of more than 400,000 points into a lead of 261,387.
Both men will play in next week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City and the season finale in Dubai, by which time the absent Rory McIlroy could be ruled out of contention for a third straight Race to Dubai title.
“I hit some great iron shots but am still struggling for consistency with the ball flight off the tee that cost me a few silly shots,” said Willett, who carded six birdies but double-bogeyed the 10th after finding water off the tee.
“It’s a lot better than it has been and it’s a lot more positive. To be honest after the last few weeks anything would have been good, but things are going in the right direction and my best is not far off.
“Last week I could have quite happily not played the last three rounds after the start we had. I could not see things going correctly.
“But we’re working hard, doing everything right and that’s all you can do in this game. We have three weeks to try and do something special and I need to make some headway this week.
“It would nice to make it almost a match-play scenario in Dubai which might make it a bit easier, especially if you are playing together.”