But for a bogey on the 18th of the extremely challenging Lake Course at Olympic Club in San Francisco on Friday, Charl Schwartzel would have had the halfway lead of the US Open even more firmly in his sights.
As things panned out, he was just four strokes off the three-way share of the lead held at a measly one-under-par by Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods and David Toms.
On a day when the top contenders could barely muster a one-under-par round between them – the best of the day was a three-under 67 by the unheralded Hunter Hamrick – it became clear that any player who is within reasonable striking distance of the top of the leaderboard when the final nine holes roll around on Sunday can win.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to really run away with it,” said Schwartzel.
It will take patience and belief – and experience, which was something which the likes of George Coetzee, who carded a 75 to follow his opening 75 as he missed the cut – to stay in touch with the three in front.
“There’s obviously a lot of holes where you’ve got to just hold on to it and see if you can make pars, and hit a decent shot here and there,” said Schwartzel. “You’re going to give yourself birdie opportunities, but obviously I’m trying to make a few birdies and get it back to around level par.
“But you got take this golf course as it comes,” he added, and South Africa’s best player in the first round, Branden Grace, followed his opening one-over with a four-over to slip into a share of 29th as he slipped just a little, but stayed within six shots of the lead.
He was luckier than Louis Oosthuizen, Tim Clark and Trevor Immelman, who joined Coetzee as half the South African contingent missed the cut.
The two South Africans in the field who have won the US Open in the past – Ernie Els and Retief Goosen – made the cut, with Els coming back nicely after his first-round five-over with a one-under 69 to be five off the lead.
So, with his tail up, the 2011 Masters champion is in the hunt: “Every shot demands so much out of you and you’ve just got to hit every one the best you can and I feel pretty comfortable out there,” said Schwartzel.
“I feel like I can do something, which is a good thing. I think a lot of guys are pretty scared of it; I don’t get that feeling. I’ve got 36 holes left and I feel I have a very good chance,” he added.