Aiken stays in touch in East London despite slip-up on 18

He hit his eight-iron approach to the 18th 220 metres in the second round of the Africa Open on Friday, and Thomas Aiken still nearly managed par after finishing well over the back of the green and on a cart path.

But the bogey-five he made as he missed a 10-footer for what would have been a superb par saw him slide to a share of second at East London Golf Club, two strokes off the hot pace set by defending champion Louis Oosthuizen.

“I knew I was going to get a flier from that lie on 18,” said Aiken, “and I even took two clubs less to try and counter that.”

In the end, he had to relinquish his first-round lead, and share second spot with Jaco Ahlers, Tjaart van der Walt and 2010 champion Retief Goosen. “It would have been nice to have gone 36 holes without a bogey, but I paid the price for that poor second shot,” Aiken added.

“But it’s a good position to be in,” he added as the Sunshine Tour’s and European Tour’s opening event moved to the cut and the weekend.

However, as Goosen pointed out, he had a tough task on his hands: “Louis is playing very well,” said Goosen, who made a 15-footer for birdie on 18 while Aiken was battling his way to that bogey.

The 2010 Open champion followed that major victory with his win at this event last year, and he looked in superb form as he sprinted away to an 11-under-par 62 in his second round on the back of a superb putting performance.

“My putting has turned around in the last three-and-a-half or four months,” he said. “It’s always been there, but it was very inconsistent.”

There was nothing wrong with it in the second round as he made nine birdies and an eagle to stretch out to 15-under-par for his lead.

“I found a new grip and I managed to get the consistency a bit better. You always get those days when you’re hitting good putts and you’re not making anything. But days like today, you just smile and go with it, because tomorrow you might have a day when you hit good putts and they don’t go in,” he said.

With the wind not providing the kind of defence of the course which would make scoring tougher, Van der Walt took advantage more than most with an ace on the second when he holed his tee shot with a six-iron on the 193-yard par-three. “That was my first ace as a professional, and the second in my life,” he said.

He followed that with an eagle three on the third, and, when he birdied the closing eighth, he was two shots behind Oosthuizen. “That eagle on three was the cherry on top,” he said of the 12-footer he sank.

“I think I see the long putts better,” he added. “When I get closer to the pin, I end up missing. But I think I stood putting in my room until 11 last night to try and fix things, and to finally have some putts sink is huge.”

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