Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter are tied for the lead with two other players at the 36-hole mark of the European Tour’s, Turkish Airlines Open. They are all four at 12-under on the Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Antalya, Turkey. Tiger Woods is, surprise, one stroke back by himself in 5th place.
Since the tournament had Tiger up in Istanbul on the Bosphorus Bridge hitting balls “from Asia to Europe” to promote the festivities, I thought Antalya was on the outskirts of the city. But it’s not. It’s 300 miles south on the Mediterranean coast.
Tiger summed up the condition of the course and the need to “keep making birdies:”
We’re going to have to continue going low here the way the golf course is set up and how soft it’s playing. It’s so receptive that it lends itself to a lot of birdies.
So receptive is a bit of an understatement. Basically the ball stops where it hits:
But you can be so aggressive here, the ball is not rolling out, it’s not bouncing out. So no matter what iron you have on the green, just fire right at it.
But you want to make sure you hit it close because the greens are a “little rough:”
Well, toward the end, the greens get a little bit rough. We’re talking about, you just don’t leave yourself those 3- or 4-footers because they are a little bit chewed up.
And on those very slow greens, Tiger shot 63, the low round of the day by two shots:
Yeah, it’s one of those rounds, where, yeah, it could have been really special. I missed probably about four putts inside ten feet today for birdie, and you know, if I make those, it’s a pretty low round [like, uh, 59!].
As for Stenson (64, 68) and Poulter (66, 66) they have spiced things up a bit with a bet. With Stenson leading the Race to Dubai, Poulter set out to give himself an “incentive” to chase him down:
Well, I told him I’m going to chase him down, because he was so far in front [2.2 million points to 1.7 million]; I like to make these silly things — and he said he’d like to take the bet on, but I said I need some odds. So he said he’d give me ten to one.
So I had a little hundred bucks, but I also said, look, if I do manage to catch you and pass you, we will have a nice night out and you have to pour my drinks for the evening. I think a thousand bucks isn’t an issue to him but pouring my drinks all night might be a big problem.
This is Ian Poulter at his quintessential best. But he is also very respectful and realizes that catching Stenson is a worthy challenge:
The last six months has been incredible. You know, the run that he’s been on is simply amazing, probably the best player in the world right now on the events that he’s played in the last six months.
You know, he’s definitely got fired up this week, whether it was a little side bet or anything. He’s a great player and he doesn’t need a lot to get fired up, and that’s obviously what he is this week.
And that is all certainly true. But Stenson has a problem that could turn into a big problem, his wrist is injured:
It’s not in a great state. I have inflammation there, and I strained something else yesterday, as well before I teed off.
So it’s not in great shape and I’m just hanging in there day‑by‑day and hope it keeps together for another couple of days.
My biggest concern is the wrist, really. I’ve played with it — third week I’m playing with a bad wrist and it’s getting even worse but it still works reasonably well to play. I just hope it doesn’t get any worse. I’m living day‑by‑day at the moment.
Living day-by-day and being very careful not to aggravate it further:
This wrist has definitely impacted my preparations leading into the two weeks in China [BMW and HSBC], and I’m playing better now.
But again, I can’t go full out with my practice, even if I would like to go down and hit some balls after the round or in between the rounds, it’s just not going to happen. So I’m definitely impacted a little bit about it. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m just trying to make the most out of it.
Yeah, I got this little bet with Ian and I knew he was going to come after me, and he’s done really well. So, you know, it’s good fun, and it’s most likely going to be an open thing for the last tournament of the year [the Tour championship next week in Dubai].
And at the end of the day, it’s all in good fun:
We have a lot of fun together and it would be even more fun if I keep him behind me. I’m trying my hardest. I know he’s not going to back down. He’s not that kind of guy. Yeah, I [need] to keep on making birdies, don’t I.
So the thing that all three of them have in common is that they will all be freewheeling. The two Euros to see who can get the best of the other and Tiger to see just how deep he can go on very receptive greens to take the trophy away from them.
The Golf Channel has five hours for the U.S. beginning at 4 am Eastern, and repeating at 7:30 pm.