Rock leads in weather-affected Joburg Open

Robert Rock completed his round ahead of the bad weather on Friday in round two of the Joburg Open, and when he was done, he was in the lead at 11-under-par.

He had a one-stroke lead in the event co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club over Branden Grace and Jbe’ Kruger, with Michiel Bothma also finished another stroke further back on nine-under.

It could change with more than half the field still to complete their rounds – first-round leader Jamie Elson was yet to even start, as were 11 other players – but Rock was in the driving seat.

He had to return to Royal’s East Course to complete his first round which had been delayed by bad weather the day before.

He did that with a flourish of consecutive birdies on 17 and 18 to match the best on that course for the opening round of seven-under-par 65 – one behind the eight-under carded by Elson and Damien McGrane on the par-71 West Course.

Getting up early is not Rock’s strong suit: “I don’t like 4.30am alarm calls,” he said. “The aim is to play your way out of those by the weekend.”

He did just that as the closing birdies from his first round gave him some good momentum, and he carded a four-under-par 67 on the West Course, which included an eagle on the second. “I didn’t play as well today, but I managed to put up a score, which was good,” he said.

Rock pulled off his first win as a professional in the BMW Italian Open last year, and he faces challenges from Kruger and Grace who are seeking their first European Tour titles. They each carded five-under-par 66 on the West Course.

Grace dropped shots on the eighth and 18th, but he carded seven birdies in a round which had him hopeful of an early success after he regained his European Tour card at Qualifying School Final Stage in Spain in December.

“I didn’t really make too many mistakes out there today,” he said. “I just missed some putts which could have made the round much better.”

Grace, who has a 2010 Sunshine Tour title to his credit, wants to take the consistency which gained him the Gary Player Trophy for the leading stroke average on the Sunshine Tour in 2011, and turn it into a big victory.

“It’s been a bit frustrating not getting the win,” he said, “but sooner or later the consistency is going to pay off.”

Kruger has been in contention in Asia for the last two seasons, and, with two Sunshine Tour victories to his name, he’s not too sure when the big one will come – and he’s not trying to force the issue.

“I don’t really feel that a win is just around the corner,” he said. “I’ve been feeling this way for the last three years, so I’m not really expecting anything. But I’m gaining a lot of experience and becoming a better golfer.”

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel battled the putting blues and struggled to a two-round total of three-under-par, which should see him make the cut – projected at three-under when play was suspended for the day.

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