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9th August 2018 | Sunshine Tour

Ritchie wards off elements for Ebotse lead

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On a day which conjured desires for duvets and hot buttered rum, JC Ritchie braved the windswept Ebotse Links and carded a level-par 72 in the second round of the R800,000 Sun Carnival City Challenge.

That gave him a three-stroke lead heading into the final round of the 54-hole tournament, with Toto Thimba trailing him after the best round on a difficult day of five-under-par 68.

“The wind today was very rough,” said Ritchie. “It was blowing between two and three clubs all day. With it being so cold, it didn’t make it any easier. So it was really good links golf today – up on the highveld – but it was good fun.”

Ritchie started off with seven consecutive pars, and then dropped a shot on the par-three eighth. But that was to be the only blemish on his card, and he atoned for that bogey with a birdie on the 13th.

“If you’d offered me level-par this morning, I would have taken it,” he said. “I did play really well. It was a stripe-show out there. I did leave quite a few shots out there too, but I also made a bunch of brilliant saves.

“I’ve been hitting the ball really well for quite a while now – Swaziland, Kenya, all the Africa events – and I’ve really been playing nicely and just waiting for the putts to drop, and that’s what’s pretty much happening this week.

“I went through the entire day just trying to hit the middle of the greens, giving myself putts – I know I’ve been putting well – and trying not to be too aggressive. I was just keeping the ball in play, even if I was hitting sand wedges or long irons, it was just to make peace with the fact that it was tough. If you made bogeys, it’s okay because everyone was going to make bogeys today.”

Thimba was more aggressive in his approach, making four birdies on his opening nine after teeing off on the 10th. He dropped a shot on the 17th – his eighth – but was flawless coming home as he picked up two more birdies.

While he was aggressive, that was tempered with a smart feel for the course and the conditions, as his approach to his final hole showed when he played a knock-down six-iron which didn’t more than 10 feet off the ground as it rolled pin-high and 30 feet from the pin. He nearly made the putt into the bargain, too.

“I won’t change anything tomorrow,” he said. “I’m an aggressive player and I don’t change. I’ll just play the way I played today and just hope. I love playing in the wind.”

Ritchie does too, so it promises to be quite the clash.

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