Titch Moore last won on the Sunshine Tour in 2007, but he carded a seven-under-par 63 on Wednesday to set up a shot at the title in the R600,000 Wild Waves Golf Challenge at the Wild Coast Sun Country Club.
That gave him a one-stroke edge over Andrew Curlewis, who also signed for a 63, with Desvonde Botes a further shot back on a total of 10-under-par after 36 holes of the 54-hole tournament.
Moore, who was out for 2011 with elbow issues, returned to tournament play in 2012 with a quiet year by his standards – just three top 10s, but with 10 missed cuts, he finished 48th on the Order of Merit.
“I’ve been doing a lot of practicing,” he said, “and trying to do the right things – doing a lot of stretching and trying to work on my fitness a bit. I’ve put a lot of effort in over the last two or three months and it’s starting to pay off.”
And, while he was frustrated by his putting last week when he finished in a share of fifth in the Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at Langebaan last week, it was better during his 63 on the 5,807-metre par-70 Wild Coast layout. “A lot better than last week,” was his evaluation. “I managed to hole a couple of nice putts. Last week was frustrating for me.
“From tee-to-green was probably about as good as I could get, but I just couldn’t hole a thing,” he added.
But it was approach play which set up his round. He deposited his second to the 18th six feet from the flag below the hole, giving himself a look at a birdie putt which would be easy enough to avoid any misgivings about that part of the game he may have still had.
Even with that kind of play, he wasn’t entirely satisfied: “There were one or two iffy iron shots out there, but I still caught the green and managed to two-putt. I gave myself a lot of chances, but there were still a few putts left out there,” he said.
But for a bogey on 15, defending champion Trevor Fisher Jnr would have equalled the course record of nine-under-par 61. He carded 62, turning in 29 with six birdies on the opening nine, but from then, he seemed to battle to score again. After the bogey, he eagled 16, birdied 17 and made par on 18.
He’s four back from Moore’s lead, but he closed with a 67 to win last year and can’t be counted out.
Ahead of him, Botes continued his solid play. He has had seven top-10s this year, and lies ninth on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit with the highest winnings of his career (over R890,000). Two bogeys on his card kept him from the lead, but he’s itching to get his first win since 2006.
“I still misbehave every now and then,” laughed Moore. “I like the course, and I have been runner-up three times in the Masters here, so I hope I can go one better tomorrow.”