Justin Rose leads Turkish Airlines Open, in position to return to World No. 1

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Justin Rose leads Turkish Airlines Open, in position to return to World No. 1

Euro Tour

Justin Rose leads Turkish Airlines Open, in position to return to World No. 1

Justin Rose is eyeing a return to World No. 1 with 36 holes to play in the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open. The Englishman takes a two-shot lead into the final two rounds.

Rose will go back to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking if he successfully defends the title he won last year.

A 7-under 65 took Rose to 12 under, two shots ahead of fellow Englishmen Danny Willett and Tom Lewis, and 2016 champion Thorbjorn Olesen.

Rose went to the turn in 4 under after birdies at the first, fifth, seventh and eighth holes. A bogey at the 10th set him back, but he played the next eight holes in 3 under to take the lead.

“I got off to a good start again and felt really comfortable out of the blocks today,” said Rose, who arrived in Turkey with five top 10s in his last six European Tour starts.

“I think it’s iron play to be honest with you. A lot of pin placements are up on shelves, off the side of these greens are a lot of run-offs but you have wedge, 9-iron in your hand. If you get overly defensive, you’re not going to make birdies, but you need to challenge some of those tough pin placements to try and shoot low around here. I think your iron play has to be on point. That’s the key.”

Victory would see Rose defend a title for the first time in his career, and he would become the first player to defend a Rolex Series tournament. However, he’s trying to stay in the present.

“Clearly I’ve been burned by this game many a time and you have to keep working hard. I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself, wake up tomorrow and go from there.”

Willett matched Rose’s 65 to get into contention for his first win since his surprise 2016 Masters victory. Injuries have hampered Willett’s last two seasons. He has just four European Tour top 10s in that time.

“The main goal this year was for the body at the end of the season to be better than it was at the beginning, which it is, and the golf game is following that trend,” Willett said.

“We’re moving really well and waking up in the mornings and in the game and everything is good, no painkillers.

“It’s a nice place to be, regardless where the golf was or is. It took a little longer than I wanted it to but it’s getting there now. It’s more where the body is and how that’s feeling.”

Olesen returned a 67, while Lewis recorded a 9-under 63 to shoot up the leaderboard. The Englishman is carrying on the form that saw him win the recent Portugal Masters for the second time.

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