It was to some extent a replica of his first-round 68, in that it contained two bogeys and six birdies, and it was in every way a replica of so many of his tournament rounds in its never-say-die spirit. It wasn’t enough to give him the halfway lead, however, as Morne Buys plotted his way around the tight layout in an impressive six-under-par 66 to place himself in pole position ahead of the weekend, two shots clear of Nel.
Nel was in turn a shot clear of England’s Ross McGowan, and first-round leader Theunis Spangenberg shared fourth with South African compatriots Zander Lombard and Erik van Rooyen.
“It was a very frustrating day to start off with,” Nel said, “but I kept my patience and got it back on my back nine today.”
He started his round on the 10th, and, after making birdie on 12, he was one-over after six holes with bogeys on 13 and 15. But a birdie on 17, and then four more on his homeward nine turned things round very nicely for him.
“You really just have to be patient in golf,” he said, “and especially around this golf course. One or two wayward shots can really get under your skin, but you’ve just got to take the punches.”
He closed off with a flourish, making successive birdies on 17 and 18 – the 18th from a delightful approach right over the flag and a 10-footer for birdie on a green – as with all of them on the course – that has many of the players scratching their heads.
“I struggled on the first nine with the greens, getting the pace right, and then came in to my own on the back nine, so it was nice to make a few putts to end off,” he said. “Putting is the key for any course, but here, putting and driving make up the key. If you get into play, you’ve definitely got a chance at the birdies, and as long as you roll it smoothly in these greens, you’ll definitely make putts.”
He’s aware that getting ahead of himself would be disastrous if he is to add to his maiden Sunshine Tour title which he won at the wind-truncated Wild Waves Challenge on the Wild Coast in August last year. “I’ll take it one step at a time,” he said. “I’ve been hitting the ball really well over the last few days, so it’s all about keeping the rhythm going.”
Like Nel, Buys has some trepidation ahead of the weekend. “It’s the first time I’ve led a tournament after the cut,” he said, “so there will definitely be nerves. But I just have to keep calm and do what I did for the last two days.”