Jaco van Zyl converted a piece of good fortune on 18 at The Links Fancourt into an eagle-three and a share of the second round lead in the R3.75-million Dimension Data Pro Am on Friday.
His difficult chip from the front of the green looked for all the world as if it would go over the pin and bounce off the back of the putting surface. Instead, the ball got snagged up in the flag, stayed caught up for a moment and then dropped into the hole.
ÂIt was a really tough flag,Â he said, Âand my second shot was a bit far right, and I needed to hit a really delicate little pitch shot. The only way of doing it was to try and take the slope out of play. I tried to float it into the breeze and spin it as much as possible. It came out a bit too low, and next thing it hit the flag, and disappeared.Â
The players have a round on each of The Links, Outeniqua and Montagu before the cut to 65 and ties and the final round on Montagu on Sunday.
The eagle saw Van Zyl finish on 13-under-par after his opening round of four-under on Outeniqua the day before, and that score was matched when Hennie Otto also had a good day on The Links, closing with three successive birdies for his seven-under 67 which didnÂt have a bogey on the card.
Van ZylÂs round was similarly flawless, and the eagle gave him a course-record-equalling 64. He did concede that the course was playing as benignly as it ever has or will: ÂThe weather was absolutely spectacular, and it was set up fairly generously,Â he said.
His playing partner Simon Dyson agreed after his six-under 66 moved him to 12-under for the tournament, one off the pace. ÂThe course was pretty easy, to be fair,Â he said. ÂIt was pretty soft and there were some generous pins, and I think that was as easy as youÂll ever play The Links.Â
The pair made 14 birdies between them, and that seemed to create a bit of competition between them. ÂWe kind of fed off each other,Â said Dyson. ÂHe played nicely and holed some good putts, and I played nicely and holed some good putts.Â
Van Zyl also fed off Dyson. ÂItÂs always good playing with him Â heÂs like a little Energizer bunny around the golf course!Â
For Otto, the key was hitting his approaches close. ÂIf you can hit your second shots close to the hole and in the right spot on The Links, that makes a difference,Â he said. ÂItÂs a golf course thatÂs not my favourite, to be honest. So IÂm quite chuffed to shoot that score on The Links.Â
For Van Zyl, itÂs a question of keeping things as uncomplicated as they have been, as he finds himself in contention for the second weekend in a row. ÂIÂm looking forward to playing two rounds in a row on Montagu now,Â he said.
He faltered down the stretch in last weekÂs Africa Open as Darren Fichardt won, so he needs to keep things on an even keel for the final two rounds. ÂI hope I can get into a nice rhythm and pull this one off,Â he said.