Lyle Rowe may not have made a cut in his two previous SA Open appearances, but an August win on the Sunshine Big Easy Tour presented by Stonehage prepared him for success at his national open.
ÂWins and good scores always do wonders for your confidence. I think IÂve fed on that win – this game is all about confidence,Â he said.
And that success began to show at the Â1-million SA Open tournament Â on Friday he shot 66, moved to nine-under and held a one-stroke lead over the morning field at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.
His nine-under par halfway score sets him two strokes clear of Thomas Aiken, Keith Horne and Scotsman Lloyd Saltman ahead of the cut to 65 professionals and ties.
ÂIt (the Sunshine Big Easy Tour) gives you the chance to groove your game. ItÂs tournament play, which is the biggest thing, and that refines you for the big stage,Â he said.
Despite carding 33 on either side of the turn, RoweÂs nines could not have been more different.
On the front stretch he got things going with a birdie at the 2nd, carded pars through his next five, and then found the cup in three at the par-five 8th to make the turn at three-under.
His second loop was a tempestuous affair and included only two pars, which he carded at the 12th and 17th. Five birdies outweighed drops at the 13th and 16th, the latter of which is a par five.Â If you short-side yourself when the pins are on the slopes, itÂs really difficult to get up and down. (But) I threw a couple of birdies in there to balance things out,Â said the Port Elizabeth Golf Club professional.
Thomas Aiken was focused on SA Open glory: ÂI would say itÂs more important to win this tournament than to finish in the top 15 in the Race to Dubai.Â
And defending champion Ernie Els finished three shots back from Rowe after carding a second 69.
Els, after whom the Sunshine Big Easy Tour is named, was very happy with golf development within the country. ÂThe Big Easy Tour is great. TheyÂre good friends of ours, Stonehage, and we all just want to give back to South Africa. If you can keep helping then I think South African golf is just going to keep growing, because we have all the talent in the world down here,Â he said.
In August Rowe beat Vaughn Groenewald in a playoff to take his first professional win, and that experience prepared him well enough to lead the SA Open.