Swanepoel tames Arabella front nine to lead Vodacom event

Chris Swanepoel blitzed the opening nine holes of the Arabella Golf Course in 29 strokes on Thursday to take a two-shot lead in the second round of the R540,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf event there.

He led from Warren Abery, who carded a four-under-par 68 to hold second place with Christiaan Basson who fired a three-under 69.

After a morning during which players seemed to battle to break par on the 6,381-metre par-72 layout, Swanepoel made it look easy with an astonishing assault of three birdies and two eagles on the opening nine holes.

It all started as he holed his approach on the 342-metre first for eagle. He birdied the fourth, and then he went birdie-eagle-birdie to close out the first nine and he had effectively distanced himself from his nearest opposition.

“It was a nice way to start, holing out from about 80 yards on the first, and that really gave me confidence,” he said of the first time he carded 29 for nine in a professional tournament.

Only a disastrous homeward nine would have denied him the lead.

It wasn’t disastrous: He carded a level-par 36 with two birdies and two bogeys for a 65 on a day on which not many players managed to tame the back nine.

“After I made bogey on 10, I thought I got things going again when I birdied 12 and 13,” he said, “but it’s a really tough finishing stretch here, especially on 18 where it looks as if you have got a lot of space on the left, but it’s a difficult tee-shot.”

Only Abery managed to go really low on that stretch, his four-under-par 32 counter-balancing his outward nine of level par.

“I had a double-bogey on the third,” said Abery, “but it’s easy to get sucked along by a playing partner who is going so well.”

Behind Swanepoel, Basson and Abery, a somewhat despondent Ulrich van den Berg finished his round in the morning, complaining of battling with his putting. “The greens are true,” he said, “but I’m struggling to find the right pace.

“I ended up leaving too many short, and I’m sure someone is going to go out in the afternoon and go a lot further under par than three,” he added.

Justin Walters was also phlegmatic about the chances of his level-par 72 for a 36-hole total of three-under holding up for the lead. “It’s tough out there, but with no wind, it’s entirely possible that someone will go and shoot the lights out,” he said.

It was Swanepoel who did that, and he will be hunting for his second win on the Sunshine Tour after his maiden victory came way back in 2007.

With three top-10s this year, he’s feeling bullish about his chances: “I’m looking forward to playing with Warren again tomorrow,” he said.

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