Turkish Airlines Open: Danny Willett slips further off pace as Race To Dubai chances wane

Danny Willett
Danny Willett
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Danny Willett’s hopes of being crowned European number one suffered another blow as three over par 74 left him 16 shots off the lead at the Turkish Airlines Open.

The Sheffield golfer needs to finish outright fifth or better to reclaim top spot in the Race To Dubai after being toppled by Henrik Stenson, who is not in action this week.

He now sits in a tie for 58th, nine shots off a group of four men tied for fourth on -8.

The 29-year-old is in danger of missing out on the Race to Dubai title for a second year in succession after failing to card a single birdie in his second round in Antalya.

Masters champion Willett had led the money list since claiming his first major title at Augusta in April, but was overtaken by Stenson on Sunday after the Open champion was joint second in the WGC-HSBC Champions and Willett finished 75th in the 78-man field.

That turned Stenson’s deficit of more than 400,000 points into a lead of 261,387 heading into the three events of the Final Series, with both men set to play in South Africa next week and the season finale in Dubai.

Willett had been encouraged by an opening 69 and hit every fairway in regulation on the front nine on Friday, but failed to get up and down from just left of the sixth green and dropped further shots on the 16th and 18th.

Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen set a new course record to take command.

Olesen fired eight birdies and an eagle in a superb 62 to reach the halfway stage of the £5.7million event on 15 under par, six shots clear of Spain’s Adrian Otaegui and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.

With the Regnum Carya Golf Resort & Spa hosting the tournament for the first time, Otaegui’s 63 had earlier eclipsed the course record established by first-round leader George Coetzee, who could only add a 73 to his opening 64.

Olesen was in contention for a Ryder Cup place after winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last year and making a strong start to this season, but had missed the cut in seven of his last 10 events before this week.

The 26-year-old was invited to Hazeltine anyway by fellow Dane Thomas Bjorn, one of European captain Darren Clarke’s vice-captains, and now has extra motivation to qualify for the team which will try to regain the trophy in Paris in 2018.

“It was a great experience,” Olesen said. “In the beginning it was a little bit difficult to be there when I had a pretty good chance in the summer to make the team, but I felt like I learned a lot being around the captain and all the vice-captains.

“One of my goals is to make the team and if I make it I will be more prepared and know a little bit of what I’m going into.

“It’s so different from any other tournament and I realised that when I got there. It’s so much bigger than you think and I was standing on that first tee on Friday to see the atmosphere there and get a bit of that feeling.

“The crowd were really rough. Some of the stuff (shouted by fans) was very personal and I thought it was hard for the players. I’m happy I saw that because that’s how it going to be in America in the future as well.”

Germany’s Martin Kaymer enjoyed a similar experience to Olesen at Valhalla in 2008 and famously went on to secure the point which retained the trophy at Medinah in 2012.

“I hope to be part of the team,” Olesen added. “Obviously holing the winning putt would be great, but as long as we win that’s the most important thing.

“I think I can be there. If I keep playing well there is a good chance.”