By Tony Jimenez
BELEK Turkey (Reuters) - Britain's Ian Poulter was leading the field by three strokes when a thunderstorm caused play to be abandoned for the day midway through the second round of the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open on Friday.
Poulter, chasing his first victory of the season, was 13-under-par through 14 holes when lashing rain and high winds sent the players scurrying off the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course at 1204 local time.
The 38-year-old Englishman started the round one behind Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez but a run of six birdies, and a solitary bogey at the 12th, meant he surged three strokes ahead of Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge who had played 13 holes.
Australian Wade Ormsby (16 holes) and American Brooks Koepka (15) were sharing third spot on nine-under.
Poulter said the weather was fine for much of the round before it turned in dramatic fashion.
"All of a sudden we had a wind switch around the 11th hole and it started to change the course," he told reporters.
"I think all of us were hoping the electricity was going to come in pretty quick because I don't think any of us wanted to be on the course in a 30-mph wind."
There was a moment when the wind and rain relented enough for the players to venture on to the practice range before the bad weather returned.
"We thought we were going to go out again," explained Poulter. "We went out, hit a few balls and then the storm rolled in again.
"It's a shame we're not back out there finishing the round but I don't think anybody wants to play in a 30-mph wind plus the lightning."
Poulter, who has been hampered by niggling injuries all year but showed signs of a welcome return to form when he tied for sixth place at the WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament in Shanghai last week, said he was frustrated to leave the course.
"It would have been nice to finish the round off but I guess it wasn't to be," he added.
"It's supposed to be pretty bad tonight and first thing in the morning. Hopefully we can get round two finished at some stage tomorrow and then get cracking on round three."
Organizers are confident the course can soak up the heavy rain that has fallen in southern Turkey.
"Last year we had 35 millimeters in one night and with a bit of a delay we started in the morning," said tournament director Miguel Vidaor.
"It drains really well so we are hoping we will be able to start tomorrow provided we don't get some torrential, horrific stuff."
Jimenez was unable to repeat the sizzling nine-under effort he produced on the opening day and was back on eight-under in the penultimate event of the European Tour season.
The 50-year-old Spaniard, who has won twice this season, started well with birdies at the first two holes but slipped down the leaderboard after dropped shots at the fourth, 12th and 13th.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)