Justin Walters experiencing déjà vu in Portugal Masters

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Justin Walters experiencing déjà vu in Portugal Masters

Euro Tour

Justin Walters experiencing déjà vu in Portugal Masters

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Justin Walters finds himself in familiar territory in this week’s $1.7 million Portugal Masters. The former NC State player finished second seven years ago to keep his European Tour card. He was playing on that occasion to honor his mother’s memory.

This week he wants to make his late father proud.

Walters returned a bogey-free, 6-under 65 to lie two shots off the lead held by fellow South African Louis de Jager. Walters lies in a share of second place with England’s Oliver Fisher and Jake McLeod of Australia.

Like the 2012 Portugal Masters, two-time All American Walters needs a good week to secure his playing rights for next year. He arrived in Portugal’s Algarve region ranked 121st on the Race to Dubai, with the top 117 at the end of this week retaining full playing rights for 2020.

Walters has been playing with a heavy heart since his father died in August. The 38-year-old admitted in a pre-tournament European Tour blog that he would have skipped the rest of the year following his father’s death, but had to keep playing because his tour status was so precarious.

“There’s a lot of symmetry,” Walters said. “That year I’d lost my mum two weeks before that and this year I lost my dad a few months ago.

“I’ll draw on those experiences, I do that all the time when I’m here. You can do that all you want but you have to move the ball from A to B and get in the hole.

“You can’t spend too much time looking at the past. You have to look at what’s in front of you. I did a very good job of that today.

“It was the kind of round I needed, given where I am. I was really calm today – that’s my mantra all week.

“The hardest part about today was not trying too hard. I’ve been doing that regularly this year. I just stayed in every shot and stayed present. It was lovely to do that.”

There were emotional scenes on the 72nd green seven years ago. Expect the same this year if Walters can improve his Race to Dubai position by four places. Not many will be rooting against him this week.

De Jager has his own Race to Dubai worries. He lies 123rd and also needs a good finish. A bogey-free 63 has given him the perfect start.

Fisher couldn’t match the 12-under 59 he returned in last year’s second round to become the first European to break 60. He’s 112th in the rankings and probably safe, but another three good rounds should ensure he keeps his European Tour status.

Matt Wallace, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 29, returned a 4-under 67 to sit in 12th place with world number 46 Eddie Pepperell, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn.

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