22 Nov 18
Matt Cort lowered the curtain on the second round of the PGA Play-Offs at Antalya Golf Club with a birdie blitz that gave him a share of pole position with David Dixon.
Having begun the day on level par four shots adrift of Dixon, the first round leader, Cort’s second negotiation of the Sultan course at the home of The PGA National Turkey was proving as trouble-free and unspectacular as the first.
That is until he reached the par five 16th. At that stage the pro from Beedles Lake in Leicestershire was one-under - three holes later his round had been transformed.
A birdie at the 16th was followed by another at the par-three 17th and then, courtesy of an unerringly accurate four-iron despatched from 190 yards out, an eagle at the par-four 18th.
It all added up to a five-under-par round of 66 which is the best posted in the 54-hole tournament thus far.
Perhaps more importantly for his confidence going into the third and final round, Cort's memorable finish was in stark contrast to a previous encounter he experienced at the 18th three years ago.
That also occurred in the PGA Play-Offs when, level with Gareth Wright on the 18th tee, his dreams of victory were derailed by a cruel lie in a greenside bunker.
As a result he signed off with a bogey while Wright sank a 12 foot putt for a birdie and the first prize.
He made amends in fine style 12 months later at Saunton by winning the event and, having won the PGA Midlands Order of Merit after a year’s absence on the domestic circuit, is in the mix again.
So, too, are at least eight others – possibly more. The leading nine in the chase for the £3,500 first prize and benefits a top three or four finish can yield, not least a place in the 2019 Great Britain and Ireland PGA Cup team for the former, are spanned by just four shots.
Dixon (above), who has won on the European Tour and in 2015 was a member of the PGA Cup team that was victorious in America for the first time, followed up his opening round of 67 with a one-under-par 70 to go into the final 18 holes level with Cort.
Their lead over the 24-strong field, however, is a slender one. Simon Thornton of Ireland, Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth and the left-handed Englishman Chris Gane are a shot behind.
Scotland’s Paul O'Hara, who was runner up last year, is a shot further back, as are Staysure Tour winner David Shacklady and PGA Assistant Michael Bullen.
Completing the top nine is Jack Winer (above) who, after completing round one in three-over, posted the second best round of the day to lie one-under for the tournament.