A sparkling eight-under 63 catapulted Charl Schwartzel into the lead halfway through the second round of the SA Open on Friday.
The score he posted proved so competitive the late starters made little impression as Schwartzel held on to the lead by the completion of the round.
He put the Bushwillow layout to the sword with a blemish-free round that included six birdies and a dramatic eagle.
“It was one of my worst tee shots of the week so far‚” Schwartzel said about the tee shot on the 17th.
“I figured if I could walk off with four or five that would be good. I managed to hit a good little third shot there. They don’t happen very often‚” he said about his 70m chip.
Schwartzel who had been at a loss to explain why results of late have not been commensurate with the quality of this play‚ still shrugged his shoulders at the completion of a round that was by some distance the best among the men at the top of the leaderboard.
“I still haven’t figured it out. I’ve played well and I’m not going to talk too much because I have lots of golf to play.
“All I know is I’m playing well and I’m driving the ball well. I haven’t been doing that consistently. I played better yesterday than today but then conditions were harder today.
“It is always nice to be in contention. It’s nice to feel that I’m playing well on courses that I am familiar with. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Schwartzel is shot clear of Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya‚ who followed up his impressive opening round 63 with a 68 on the Bushwillow layout.
One shot further back were American Kurt Kitayama and the South African pair Zander Lombard and overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen.
Kitayama‚ who tied the course record with a 63 on Firethorn in the opening round‚ could not replicate the magic.
He negotiated the Bushwillow course in an underwhelming 69. He however would have been mightily relieved to drain a long range par putt on the last after overcooking his escape from the greenside bunker.
Despite the fact that he has hit 40m longer than the average drive this week‚ the blustery conditions frustrated the American.
“It’s playing pretty tough with this wind. I had trouble getting it close‚ you know‚ finding the right distances‚ it was just tough to adjust‚” he said.
“I was able to grind out a couple under‚ stay in it and get into the weekend. That’s where I want to be.
“Mentally‚ you just want to stay in it‚ even though you’re mentally tired‚ after last week. It was nice to stay in it and not let the bad shots affect me too much and eventually pull out a decent round.
“It’s a great position to be in but I still have 36 more holes to play. But right now I’m just trying not to think about it too much.”
Lombard played himself into contention despite a poor start.
“My start was an absolute shocker. I was up against a tree and I chipped out and hit it short from 80 yards and it spun 15 yards into the water‚” he said.
“It was downwind‚ I couldn’t believe it. But I hit a poor chip but at least I kept my cool and had a bounce-back birdie and had a solid round from there.
“I think the biggest thing is that old cliché of sticking to your process.”
Unlike Schwartzel he eagled the 17th in more conventional fashion after a booming drive and a pinpoint cut three-iron onto the green.
South Africa’s Jbe Kruger and Zimbabwe’s Mark Williams are three shots off the pace‚ while South Africa’s Branden Grace and England’s Matt Wallace are four shots adrift.
The cut was set at two-under‚ which means the youngest ever player in SA Open history‚ Yurav Premlall‚ will play over the weekend. The 15-year old shot an impressive 67 on Friday.