But take care not to write off the son of a preacher man
JOHANNESBURG: While England’s cricketers may have found the going tough at the Wanderers yesterday, it was smooth sailing for one of their golfers, David Lynn, across the city in the Joburg Open.
The tall 36-year-old professional birdied the 18th hole on Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s long and demanding East course to post a 67 and open up a one-shot lead at halfway on 12-under-par 130 in this European Tour event.
But giving chase is South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel who is attempting back-to-back wins on tour following his Africa Open victory at East London Golf Club on Sunday.
The 25-year-old also picked up a shot at the par-5 closing hole, thanks to a 10-foot birdie putt, to be home in 68 and lying second just one off the pace on 131.
Sharing third place on 10under going into today’s third round is Danny Willett from England, veteran South African campaigner Hendrik Buhrmann, his young compatriot Jbe Kruger, and Schwartzel’s playing partner for the first 36 holes, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke – at 41 still one of the finest ball-strikers in world golf.
To accommodate the larger than normal field, this tournament is played over both of Royal Johannesburg’s splendid courses for the first two rounds and on Thursday Lynn opened with an impressive 63 on the easier West.
“But the East is much tougher and I was fortunate today to start my round by stiffing it (hitting his approach close) at the first,” said Lynn.
That led to an opening birdie three on a hole that has been changed from the normal club par-5 to a par-4 for the tournament.
“That kind of got me going and I was two under at the turn which was pretty satisfying since this was first time I’d seen East’s inward loop so I was playing it blind,” added the Englishman who sees his ballmarkers as lucky charms and puts his debut win on the European Tour – in the 2004 KLM Open – to one of these markers, an 1891 ‘Queen’s Shilling’ that soldiers were handed when going to war.
Schwartzel also opened with a 63 on the West when he carded no less than 10 birdies. But he found birdies much harder to come by yesterday, with only three of them in his bogey-free return.
In fact, what kept his round together more than anything were some crucial par-saving putts – not the least of these being a 12-footer at the par-3 12th, and a seven-footer at the par-4 14th.
“Those are the putts that make all the difference and keep you in the tournament,” said Schwartzel. “I did struggle at bit with the driver out there today but switched to a threewood off the tee to make sure I kept the ball on the fairway.
“It wasn’t easy. They tucked some of the flags away and others were right on the back (of the putting surfaces) and you had to be careful, because if you over-shoot the greens here you’re in the thick stuff and you’re going to make bogey.”
Over 200ml of rain has fallen at Royal Johannesburg since January and not only is there little if any run on the ball, but the rough is thick and squelchy, making for tricky recovery shots.
Preacher’s son Willett was the No 1 amateur in the world in 2008 before turning professional while 46-year-old Buhrmann did himself proud yesterday by playing the first nine of the West in just 30 strokes en route to a 64.
The tournament is still wide open with the South African trio of James Kamte, Keith Horne and Hennie Otto and England’s John Parry very much in contention on nineunder 133, and four players – Oliver Bekker, Neil Schietekat, Paul Broadhurst from England and Andrew McLardy, who was runner-up in the inaugural Joburg Open in 2007 and again last year, on eight-under.
Kevin Stone had a day’s best 63, on the West, to be with a big group on seven under.
The cut was determined at three-under 139 and some prominent players missed out including defending champion Anders Hansen from Denmark (140), Thomas Aiken (141), former British Open champion Paul Lawrie (141) and James Kingston (142).
A few players were unable to complete their rounds last night because of lightning delays but were unlikely to alter the leaderboard. A winner tomorrow night? It’s anybody’s guess. It might by Lynn, it might be Schwartzel and it might be the son of a preacher man...
THREATENING: Preacher’s son Danny Willett is right in touch.