Belek - It is hard to believe that just 12 months ago, Haydn Porteous wondered if he even belonged on the European Tour.
If the 23-year-old Johannesburg golfer had any doubts after his Czech Masters victory in September, a share of the lead in the opening round of the Turkish Airlines Open should convince him.
Porteous fired seven birdies for a flawless 65 at the par-71 Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort to set the early clubhouse target.
He will start the second round at the top of the pile alongside Nicholas Colsaerts from Belgium and Dutchman Joost Luiten. The trio leads by one shot from Major champion Padraig Harrington and Andres Romero from Argentina.
The performance was a far cry from the boy who moaned that he couldn't play the course last year.
"I guess I've come a long way," joked Porteous. "Last year I was having some real issues with the swing and the putter and it was a frustrating week.
"I just felt I couldn't play the course. Even though I shot 66 in the final round, it was a flash in a pan. I left Turkey in a very negative mind set. I didn't think I belonged on the European Tour and I was just very negative about my game.
"The game did pick up and the win in Prague changed everything. Winning the Joburg Open was one of the most special moments of my career, but I always felt that I'd won in my own back yard. I think it's when you win one in Europe that you feel that sense of belonging."
Porteous has been working with his South African-based coach Martin du Toit at the BDGA Academy on correcting a 'flaw' in his putting stroke and believes he has found that certain something that will take him to the next level.
"Since my amateur days I've tended to lean right over my putting stroke, so that's something Martin and I are trying to correct," said Porteous. "I definitely feel a whole lot more confident over the flat stick and that feeds the whole game."
"I started at 11 and that's a really tough opening hole. The tee shot has water all the way down the left and the rough can be a little bit daunting. I just trusted the swing and hit a good tee shot that left me in a good position to go for the flag.
"I hit a gap-wedge to eight feet and holed the putt. That was the start I wanted. I knew I had a chance at a birdie at 12, being a par five, and when I made it I took a good bit of confidence to the third hole. Starting with three birdies in a row gave me a sense of comfort. I hit a few errand tee shots on both nines, but I scrambled well to save par. Sometimes a par-save is more important that a birdie, because it helps you to keep the momentum going."
Porteous birdied the par-five 15th and knocked another short one in for birdie at the 17.
"Anytime you turn five under with a two shot lead, you know you are in a good spot," he said. "I picked up two more birdies at five and eight, but I made all the made crucial pars down the back nine to keep the card clean.
"It's definitely a different start to last year's event and hopefully I can keep it going. It's just really important to stay with your processes and to play shot-for-shot."
Compatriot Brandon Stone got within three shots of the lead with an eagle three at seven, but an expensive triple bogey at the par-four 10th set him back to one under alongside Dylan Frittelli.
George Coetzee, who finished fifth in last year's event, opened with an even-par 71, while Richard Sterne and Dean Burmester have some work do after posting rounds of 76.
Leading scores after the first round of the Turkish Airlines Open at
Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in Antalya on Thursday (Par 71,
GBR/IRL unless stated):
64 - Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL), Haydn Porteous (RSA), Joost Luiten (NED)
65 - Padraig Harrington, Andres Romero (ARG)
66 - Eddie Pepperell, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), Matthieu Pavon (FRA), Ian Poulter
67 - Paul Dunne, Lee Westwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN)
68 - David Drysdale, Chris Wood, Shane Lowry, Jorge Campillo (ESP), Julian Suri (USA)
69 - Justin Rose, Peter Uihlein (USA), Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN)
70 - Thomas Bjorn (DEN)
71 - Tommy Fleetwood, Martin Kaymer (GER)
73 - Henrik Stenson (SWE)