Danny Willett believes he is no longer golf’s version of Humpty Dumpty as he targets a first victory since the 2016 Masters.
Willett carded a second round of 65 in the Turkish Airlines Open to lie two shots off the lead held by defending champion Justin Rose, who will return to world number one with victory at Regnum Carya Golf Resort on Sunday.
Rose’s second consecutive 65 gave him a halfway total of 12 under par and means he is now a combined 50 under for his 10 rounds in the £5.4 million event, while he also won its precursor – an eight-man matchplay competition – in 2012.
“I can’t afford to stand still,” said Rose, who admitted he was fortunate to escape with a bogey on the 10th after pulling his tee shot into the water. “We’ve got to keep moving forward. I played catch-up to win last year and there are plenty of guys who are capable of doing the same thing.”
Tom Lewis and 2016 champion Thorbjorn Olesen share second place with Willett on 10 under par, with Lewis carding a flawless 63 that was just one shot outside Olesen’s course record.
Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National, but had slumped outside the top 450 earlier this year after suffering numerous injuries and a loss of form.
A missed cut in the French Open was his ninth in 12 events, but the 31-year-old from Sheffield bounced back to finish sixth in the Irish Open, 19th in the Scottish Open and 24th in the Open at Carnoustie, his best finish in any major since the 2016 Masters.
Willett credits coach Sean Foley – who formerly worked with Tiger Woods – and fitness trainer Kev Duffy for his resurgence, but admits it has been hard work to get to this point after the injuries which left him struggling to get out of bed in the morning.
“The body is in the best place it’s been in probably five or six years now and the golf game is going along with it and following that trend,” the world number 322 said after a round containing seven birdies and one bogey.
“I can get up and have 16-hour days if I want to. Well, I can’t because I’ve got two kids, but the fact that the body is able to if I wanted to is great. It’s more that the energy levels are still high at the end of the day because your body is not knackered from playing 18 holes and that used to be the case.
“It was like Humpty Dumpty, every time you finished playing you’ve got to put him back together again, rest up and then try and go again tomorrow. It’s nice that we can put more time in and it’s a game of practice; the more you practice the better chance you give yourself.”
Lewis is another player on the comeback trail after winning the Portugal Masters in September, seven years after victory in the same even in just his third start as a professional.
“It’s been a long time coming but I’ve been patient with it and I’ve played great golf this summer,” said Lewis, who held a share of the lead in the 2011 Open after an opening 65, the lowest round by an amateur in championship history.
“It’s my first Rolex Series event and hopefully I can just play as well as I did today over the next couple of days.”
A second round of 66 left Tommy Fleetwood four shots off the pace as he tries to close the gap to Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari at the top of the Race to Dubai.