Tullo calm before storm in Tshwane

Although he had to quicken his play for fear of being caught in the storm which hit the second round of the €1.5-million Tshwane Open, Mark Tullo managed to move within one of the lead with his six-under-par 66.

Extraordinarily, the Chilean carded his second-successive bogey-free round at The Els Club Copperleaf on his way to a halfway total of 11-under-par 133, one off the early pace set by South Africa’s Charl Coetzee who soared to a seven-under-par 65 of his own.

Tullo was home and dry at halfway, but it was a close run thing: “The three of us started walking faster, putting faster, because you want to get in as quickly as possible when you see a big storm coming,” he said.

His play never faltered despite the looming clouds. “The driver is working well, my irons are especially good and I’ve given myself many, many chances,” he said. “As long as I do that some of the putts are going to drop.”

Moments after Tullo finished his round, the afternoon thunderstorm broke, causing play to be abandoned for the rest of the day. “That siren sounded just after we finished, and that’s the best thing that can happen to you,” he said. “To come back here early I the morning is not what you want to do.”

But those who haven’t completed their rounds will have to do just that – at 6.45am, with the cut being made on completion of the second round, and play in the third round not resuming before 9.20am.

One of those affected was Dawie van der Walt, who had reached seven-under-par for his second round through 14 holes in a birdie bonanza. At 11-under for the tournament, and with five to play, he could well find himself in the lead at the start of the third round.

American Peter Uihlein also carded a six-under 66 to move to 10-under for the tournament – alone for now in third, although Frenchman Romain Wattel had one to play and was on nine-under.

But whatever happens over the next 36 holes, there is a sense that this one round is going to mean the world to Coetzee who leads a European Tour event for the first time in his career.

“I’ve felt like I’ve started playing better over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been working hard with my coach and a sports psychologist,” he said. It all came together for Coetzee on Friday.

“It’s always nice to play well. But the putting was really the key for me,” he said. “This is quite a long golf course so you have to hit it well off the tee. And I think it was set up fairly, so it’s always going to be a case of the guy who makes the putts is going to do well.”

And Coetzee would do well to heed the words of Tullo: “The tournament starts on the Sunday back nine, and as long as I’m in the hunt come Sunday I’ll be happy.”

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