If there’s one thing certain in golf these days, it’s that Justin Rose will be there or thereabouts. He’s such an omnipresent feature, you can just about gaze at a mirror in your Regnum Carya hotel room and convince yourself that Rose is actually hosting your own reflection.
Forget double takes, though, it’s the double whammy that is very much on here at the Turkish Airlines Open. A successful defence of his crown – a golfing feat he has never achieved before – would bring the additional spin off of a return to the top of the world rankings.
On a leaderboard that was as congested as the Blackpool turn off on a Bank Holiday, Rose eased away from the general melee with a second successive six-under 65 to open up a two-shot lead over the pack with a 12-under 130.
With all the consistency of night following day, the unflappable, fiercely competitive Rose is just where he wants to be. Since winning the Turkish Airlines Open last November, the 38-year-old has racked up 17 top-10 finishes in 24 events including two more victories, a trio of seconds and a brace of thirds.
At this stage of the Turkish showpiece 12 months ago, Rose was nine shots off the lead but came hurtling through the field with closing rounds of 64 and 65. Now it’s the rest who are playing catch up.
Despite finding a remarkably rich vein of form, the former US Open champion will never take anything for granted. Is golf coming easy to you? “I would never admit to that,” he said with a cautious smile. “I’ve been burned by this game many times and you have to keep working hard. This is the kind of golf course where you have to keep moving forward. Even par is not going to cut it out here.”
The group behind Rose includes the 2016 Turkish Airlines Open champion, Thorbjorn Olesen, and the English duo of Tom Lewis and Danny Willett.
Lewis, who won the Portugal Masters in just his third start as a professional back in 2011 and then slumped into a serious decline, continued his rousing renaissance with a delightful 63 which was just a stroke shy of the course record.
Having started the season on the Challenge Tour, Lewis earned his place back on the main tour by winning the Portugal Masters for the second time in his career. “It’s been a long time coming but I’ve been patient with it and I’ve played great golf this summer,” he said of his road to redemption.
Willett is another golfer on the comeback trail and his 65 kept him in the hunt for a first win since he won the Masters two years ago. In that time, a crippling back injury and a dispiriting loss of form left him plumbing the kind of depths you’d need a bathysphere for as he slithered from ninth in the world to 462nd.
The Yorkshireman is still a work in progress but there’s plenty of light at the end of the tunnel now. “I was like Humpty Dumpty,” he said. “Every time I finished playing I had to be put back together again. But now, the energy levels are still high because my body is not knackered from playing.”
Source : HeraldScotland