Danny Willett suffers Turkish setback in race for No 1

Danny Willett.
Danny Willett.
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Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen set a new course record to take command of the Turkish Airlines Open as Danny Willett’s hopes of becoming European No 1 nosedived.

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

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.

Sheffield’s Willett, who needs to finish outright fifth or better to reclaim top spot in the Race to Dubai from Henrik Stenson, fared even worse with a 74 which left him 16 shots off the lead and in a tie for 58th in the 78-man field. 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.

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. Both men are 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 yesterday, but failed to get up and down from just left of the sixth green and dropped further shots on the 16th and 18th. Willett refused to speak to reporters at the end of his second round, but later tweeted: “Well this game is really kicking me in the nuts at the minute!! If it’s not one thing it’s another.. Haha.. #grinditout #TurkishAirlinesOpen”