Harding joins in chase of Ahlers for Mooinooi victory

For the second time in two rounds, Justin Harding had a bogey-free card at Mooinooi Golf Club as he moved to 14-under-par after the second round of the R500,000 Platinum Classic presented by UD Trucks.

His six-under-par 66 took him to within one stroke of leader Jaco Ahlers with one round of the 54-hole tournament left, and in a share of second place with Merrick Bremner.

“Playing that kind of golf is unusual for me,” said Harding, “but I will admit I got a little lucky off the tee sometimes today. I made some putts, so I’m up there after I had a bit of a quiet patch on the homeward nine.”

He started with four birdies on the opening nine, and looked as if he would chase down the target set by Ahlers earlier in the day with his fine eight-under-par 64, but he made just two during the second nine as he made six consecutive pars from the 11th.

“A couple of putts burned the edges,” he said ruefully, but he was able to pick up a sixth birdie for his round on the 17th to ease into second place.

Ahlers chipped in for eagle on 14, and putted well on a day during which his ball striking was not as good as it was in his opening 65. “Scrambling and putting – that was the story,” he said.

Bremner also carded a six-under-par 66, and, after his opening 64, he made just one bogey – a three-putt from 15 feet – on the 15th as he got himself in a position to challenge for the title.

There were four players grouped on 12-under for the tournament: Warren Abery and Vaughn Groenewald matched their opening 66s to be three off Ahlers’ lead.

But rookie Dean O’Riley carded his best score as a professional with his eight-under-par 64 to move into contention. “I three-putted 17,” he said, “but I’m very pleased to be where I am.” He finds himself one stroke ahead of the leader in the Rookie of the Year race, Allan Versfeld as that duel continues to fascinate.

And at the other end of the experience spectrum, Hennie Otto carded the best round of the day, with a nine-under-par 63 – which included a bogey on two. It helped that the dropped shot came after he eagled the first, and it confirmed for him that the swing adjustments he made at the Bridgestone Invitational on the US PGA Tour had finally bedded down.

Versfeld, Brandon Pieters and Darren Fichardt all finished at 11-under, four off the pace, whioch means there are 10 players within striking range of the title – as well as a group of five on nine-under, which includes Jean Hugo who has made some memorable end-runs in his time to pull off some audacious victories.

But the lead group of Ahlers and Bremner will have Harding in it, who thrives on the pressure of duelling for victory. “Sometimes, when you’re back in the field, it’s easy to just go through the motions,” he said. “I want to be trying stuff.”

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