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Walters battles way back to Belfry summit

Walters battles way back to Belfry summit

Justin Walters ground out a gutsy 71 to open up a one shot lead after day two of the 2020 ISPS HANDA UK Championship.

Justin Walters

The South African had carded a brilliant 64 on day one before heavy rain arrived resulting in a lengthy delay, and he maintained his three shot lead when the first round was completed on Friday morning.

They say it is difficult to follow a very low round with another and so it proved on another rainy day at The Belfry, but Walters came home in 34 in testing conditions, making an impressive par save on the last to get nine under.

Frenchman Benjamin Hebert was his closest challenger after a 69, one shot clear of England's Paul Waring, who carded a 67.

Two more Englishmen in Marcus Armitage and Matthew Jordan were at six under alongside Kiwi Ryan Fox and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.

Walters turned in 37 and when Hebert made a birdie on the 16th, he was out of the lead for the first time all day.

But the 2012 European Challenge Tour and two time Qualifying School graduate showed all the fight for which he is renowned to make two birdies on the back nine as the rain fell at the final event of the UK Swing.

Walters has twice secured second place finishes at the Portugal Masters to secure his playing privileges, first just after losing his mother in 2013 and last season after his father passed away in the summer.

Friday was the one year anniversary of his father's passing and Walters admitted his dad was in his thoughts in the English Midlands.

"It's quite special, today a year ago I lost my dad and I've just got quite a sombre, relaxed approach at the moment," he said. "Whatever comes my way, comes my way.

"When something good happens, smile and enjoy it. That's got me through some tough moments already this week in terms of the situations I've found myself in. I plan to continue that on the weekend.

"It would be nice not to have to lose someone in my family for me to produce good golf. I'm working on that hard and I'm starting to gain some ground in all areas of my game. This has been a good test and this is what we play for.

"A few months ago I wasn't sure if we would even get any tournaments to play in, and now I have the lead going in to the weekend in a tournament at an iconic golf course. I don't think you can ask for more than that."

Waring completed his first round in the morning, with a double bogey on the last cancelling out two birdies in his fnal six holes in a 70, and he was the early pace-setter when round two got under way.

Birdies on the third, fourth and ninth sent him up the leaderboard, and approaches to four and six feet on the 13th and 15th meant he was the closest challenger to the overnight leader.

A bogey from Walters on the second made it a tie at the top but he hit back with a birdie on the next before dropping another shot on the sixth.

The 39-year-old then made six pars in a row and he soon had Hebert for company, as the man who lost three play-offs last season recovered from a bogey-bogey start with birdies on the fourth, seventh and eighth.

Another gain on the 11th edged him into a share but he gave the shot back on the next before leaving himself three feet for birdie on the 14th.

A tap-in at the 16th gave him the solo lead but Walters birdied the 13th from three feet and a two putt gain on the par five 15th put him into red figures for the day and back on top on his own.

A ragged tee shot on the last looked like it may send him back into a share but Walters got up and down with a clutch putt to stay at nine under.

Wiesberger was just one shot off the lead but found water on the last to surrender a double bogey and sign for a 71.

Walters' playing partner Fox was bogey free in an excellent 67 that matched Waring's as the lowest round of the day, while Armitage carded a 68 and Jordan signed for a 69.

American Julian Suri and Zimbabwean Scott Vincent were at five under, a shot clear of two time Major Champion Martin Kaymer, South African duo Dean Burmester and Bryce Easton, Scottish pair Calum Hill and Craig Howie, and England's Richard Bland.

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