Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Golf: Turner rolls back years to stay in contention

Turner produced a birdie on 16, parred the 17th and then finished his round with an eagle as his nine iron from 131 metres found the hole. Photo / Getty Images
Turner produced a birdie on 16, parred the 17th and then finished his round with an eagle as his nine iron from 131 metres found the hole. Photo / Getty Images

Greg Turner has exceeded his own expectations this week and even finds himself in with a chance of winning a third New Zealand Open after two rounds at Clearwater.

The 49-year-old is playing his first Open since 2002 and his first tournament of note in eight years, after he retired from the game in 2004 to spend more time with his family.

But, the Central Otago right-hander has made a return to the greens in a bid to join the European Senior Tour next year when he turns 50 and he carded a one-under 71 yesterday that left him in a tie for 17th, four shots off the pace.

The leaderboard is congested at the pointy end - with Australian Daniel Fox on top at three-under - and Turner's experience should help him during the final two rounds in Christchurch.

"It would have been no surprise to me if I was six to eight shots worse," Turner said after his round.

"It was alright, I played pretty decently. I felt better as the round wore on which is nice because I was buggered yesterday near the end. I just got tired. So I was really trying to keep the energy levels [high] today.

"I think I ate more on the golf course today than I've eaten ever on a golf course."

The former European Tour pro fired three birdies and two bogeys around Clearwater as the afternoon players got the better of the conditions as - against predictions - the wind died down as the day wore on.

Turner's side of the draw also had easier scoring weather on day one and the luck of the draw certainly fell in his favour.

He said during his time off he only played once a month, but had ramped up his preparation during the past month, with limited time.

"I did as much as you can without playing. What I've been missing is that feeling of being in that competitive situation and you can't replicate that. You can pretend when you're out playing with guys at home, but it's not the same," Turner said.

"When the gun goes off, you go through a whole set of emotions and feelings and you can't replicate that.

"It's not about not having nerves, it's about how you deal with them. It was interesting trying to remember what to do."

Turner, who won the Open in 1989 and 1997, said on Wednesday that he wanted to know more by the end of the week than he knew at the start, so with that in mind, what had he learned during his first two rounds?

"I've learned that there's still a wee bit of life left in the old dog yet," he smiled.

If he can find a few birdies during the next two days there might be a third Open crown in store for the old dog too.


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