BELEK: Describing it as his best ball-striking round of the year, Thomas Aiken hit every green in regulation en route to a six-under-par 65 in round two on Friday in the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open.
At the Regnum Carya course, the undulating putting surfaces are as smooth a billiard tables, and the warm water of the “Med” is just a short walk away.
“I was having fun out there,” said Aiken, “hitting everything close and, seriously, I had a couple of lip-outs and a couple of shortish putts that refused to drop.
“So, if those putts had gone in, I’d have been flirting with a 59,” added the South African, who now plays out of the Abaco Club in the Bahamas, where he lives.
“I’m actually fortunate to be playing this week as I was laid low with food poisoning on Tuesday and had to visit the doctor, who gave me a couple of injections in the backside.
“Not nice, but it got me right, and I’m playing well at the right time as I’m on the cusp of getting into the Nedbank next week, but I need a strong showing here.
“Saturday is always called moving day, but this is a no-cut event, and I’m regarding every round as a moving day, and every hole as a chance to move up that leaderboard.”
Aiken is on six-under-par 136 at the halfway mark alongside compatriot Darren Fichardt, who has had two 68s so far.
They are a fair distance off the lead, though, held by that brilliant birdie machine that is Justin Rose, who is on 12-under-par 130 after a pair of dazzling 65s.
Fichardt is in the 72-man line-up for Sun City, which he feels is reward for him playing some fine golf this year.
“I’ve made a lot of birdies over the weeks and months, but a few too many bogeys as well, maybe because I’ve been a bit too aggressive.
“Today I decided to play a touch more conservatively and, besides a three-whack from a tricky spot on the green at the 10th hole, my only dropped shot, I didn’t come close to making a bogey.”
Last year, the man from Centurion cracked a spot in the $7 million Nedbank Challenge at the last minute as an alternate, and capitalised by finishing sixth, which meant a healthy paycheque of in excess of R3 million.
The money’s big in golf these days.
A third South African, big-hitting Dean Burmester, also had a 66 on Friday – with six birdies, an eagle-three at the 545-yard par-5 12th, and two dropped shots.
Following his opening one-over-par 72 on Thursday, he is as at five-under overall. That eagle? “I smashed a drive down the fairway, then hit eight iron over the water to about five feet, and rolled the putt right into the middle of the hole.”
Erik van Rooyen, the best of the South Africans on day one with a 67, signed for a level par 71 on Friday.
He is on 138 at the halfway mark – another solid showing in what has been a lucrative debut season on the European Tour for the US college graduate, who plays out of Country Club Johannesburg.
He is assured of another debut next week as he’s a shoo-in for Sun City, to realise what has been a boyhood dream for him.
136 – Darren Fichardt 68 68, Thomas Aiken 71 65
137 – Dean Burmester 72 65
138 – Erik van Rooyen 67 71
140 – George Coetzee 70 70
143 – Trevor Immelman 77 71