Wind, rain, light­ning a Chal­lenge

Pretoria News Weekend - - SPORT RACING - JACQUES WESTHUYZEN

SUN CITY: Af­ter a long and chal­leng­ing day at the Ned­bank Golf Chal­lenge here yes­ter­day it was French­man Vic­tor Dubuis­son who emerged as the leader at the half­way point af­ter shoot­ing a two-un­der-par 70 to be at six-un­der-par 138.

The 27-year-old, who is 73rd in the Race to Dubai stand­ings and hasn’t en­joyed a good 2017 sea­son, recorded four birdies and two bo­geys to go with his open­ing round of 68 to lead by two from South Africa’s Darren Fichardt and Eng­land’s Lee West­wood.

The fairy tale con­tin­ued for the Cen­tu­rion-based Fichardt who only got into the tour­na­ment hours be­fore his 9am tee-time on Thurs­day af­ter the with­drawal of two play­ers. He then shot an open­ing round 71 fol­lowed by a 69 yes­ter­day.

He de­scribed the el­e­ments on a windy day as the tough­est he’d ex­pe­ri­enced in many vis­its to Sun City. Heavy rain and light­ning also forced the play­ers from the course in the af­ter­noon, sus­pend­ing play for nearly three hours, and the fi­nal pair­ing only fin­ished around 6.30pm.

“The rough has been bru­tal in the past, but the el­e­ments were the tough­est I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced,” said Fichardt. “The con­di­tions were just so harsh and com­mit­ting to a shot was very dif­fi­cult; you just didn’t know if the ball was go­ing to fly 120 me­tres or 170 ... and still hav­ing to go over wa­ter in places; it’s not the great­est feel­ing in the world.

“You’ve just got to pick your shot and com­mit to it; I think that’s the key in con­di­tions like this. Keep it in the fair­way, hit the greens and try make par. I’m in it, I’m stay­ing in touch of the lead­ers so I’m happy ... I’m playing well, so let’s hope the fairy tale con­tin­ues to the end.”

West­wood, who has won the title two times, agreed that yes­ter­day’s round chal­lenged him on many dif­fer­ent lev­els – and he’s been here 12 times now.

“I played re­ally good golf to­day. Bar a few putts that didn’t go in, I hit it close and that shows what the qual­ity was of the long game,” he said.

“But that was cer­tainly one of the tough­est days I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced on this course. The wind blew as strongly as I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced it ... it changed di­rec­tions all day and was gusty, too. I think my ex­pe­ri­ence here was im­por­tant to­day, and will be go­ing for­ward, so the harder it gets the bet­ter for me.”

West­wood, who won in 2010 and 2011, made six birdies and four bo­geys in a round of 70.

Four play­ers, Ross Fisher (71), Tyrrell Hat­ton (70), Scott Jamieson (73) and de­fend­ing cham­pion Alex Noren (72), are three shots off the lead and still very much in the run­ning.

Fisher, who has be­come a reg­u­lar at the tour­na­ment in re­cent years and has come close to win­ning, also spoke about the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions and dilemma in pick­ing the right club.

“It was tough out there, and stay­ing pa­tient was key. This course is tricky at the best of times, but the con­di­tions to­day meant it wasn’t easy pulling clubs. But I made some nice putts at eight, nine, 10 and 11 and the last three holes were solid, so I’m very pleased where I am.”

Only 12 play­ers of the 71 broke par on the day and while Charl Schwartzel (73) and Bran­den Grace (75) were not among them they are still very much in the hunt, be­ing four and five shots off the lead re­spec­tively.

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