7th December 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Schwartzel’s eagle sees him grab SA Open lead
Charl Schwartzel recovered from a poor tee shot on 17 on Friday to make eagle on the Bushwillow course at Randpark Golf Club and finish the second round of the South African Open Championship hosted by City of Joburg with a one-stroke lead.
The 2011 Masters champion came home in six-under-par 30 on a day of blustery wind to cap a bogey-free round of eight-under 63. That saw him finish on 12-under at the halfway stage, with Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya in second after his three-under-par 68 on the Firethorn course.
“The drive on 17 was probably one of my worst tee shots for the week,” said Schwartzel. “I figured if I could walk off with four or five, it would be good. I managed to hit a really good little third shot there. They don’t happen very often.
“I had 70 yards in, and I couldn’t leave it below the flag because it would have spun back into the water. I knew that there was a bank behind the green, end even without too much spin, the ball will always come back from that.”
With both courses played by all the players, the halfway cut sees the action move to Firethorn for the weekend, and a one-shot edge for Schwartzel might prove crucial on the course which is generally acknowledged to be the tougher of the two at Randpark.
He’s fighting confidence demons which have plagued his game lately, but he’s welcoming signs that he might be close to quelling those. “I still can’t figure out why I’m not getting the performances I need, even after that round!” he laughed. “I’ve had a few tournaments where I’ve played well like this, so I’m not going to talk too much yet. There’s lots of golf to play. All I know is I’m playing well. I’m driving the ball well and I haven’t been doing that consistently.”
Muthiya overcame a double-bogey six on the 13th on Bushwillow on his way to his second spot at the halfway mark in the tournament. “I was pleased that I managed to bounce back after the blemish,” he said. “I am very happy that I was able to hang in there and not let that distract me in terms of finishing off the round.”
In a share of third at the cut were last week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open winner Kurt Katayama of the US, South African Zander Lombard and 2010 Open champion and first-round leader Louis Oosthuizen. Katayama ground his way to two-under on Bushwillow, Lombard overcame a triple bogey on the third on the same course before recovering on the back nine for his three-under, and Oosthuizen kept overcoming adversity often enough to card one-under 70 on Firethorn.
“I felt I just kept it together and just got the round done and didn’t play myself out of it completely,” said Oosthuizen. “The wind made it tough. It’s like you’re backing off the whole time, you’re not committing. It’s just difficult, especially up here where the ball does go further as well.”
Perhaps the tough conditions will be just what Schwartzel needs to keep his confidence high as he goes in search of his maiden national open championship title, and redemption for the shock play-off loss to Andy Sullivan back in 2014.
“It’s always nice to be in contention, it’s nice to feel like I’m playing well, and it’s on golf courses that I’m familiar with,” said Schwartzel. “I’m looking forward to the weekend.”