Experience tells Donaldson three-shot lead not enough on testing Sun City course
SUN CITY: A long day out on the Gary Player Country Club golf course yesterday – and a day tinged with plenty of Madiba emotion – ended with Welshman Jamie Donaldson leading the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the halfway mark.
Following Thursday’s storm- hit opening round in which none of the players in the 30-man field were able to complete 18 holes, the 38-yearold from Pontypridd had to play six holes early yesterday morning on his way to a 67, and then went straight back on the course to sign for a splendid 66.
This puts him on 11-underpar 133 through 36 holes and he leads by three from American Ryan Moore, who posted a day’s best 65 in his second round, and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, the big- hitting, birdie- machine who has dominated world golf this year by winning the FedEx Cup in America and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.
“It was a long day, but also a solid day because I hit a lot of iron shots close and made the putts,” said Donaldson, an NGC debutant, who birdied three of the first four holes and raced to the turn in 31 strokes, before bogeying the 10th and then picking up two more shots at holes 13 and 14.
“It was also a sad day because a great man has passed away, a man who who has made a massive difference to South Africa,” added the man who, before making steady progress on the European Tour since 2008, broke through with his first win in the Irish Open last year, and then claimed victory in the Abu Dhabi Championship this year.
“I was aggressive out there today without being daft, and it’s great to be up front.
But a three- shot lead is pretty much irrelevant with two rounds still to go, and so many good players in the field,” added Donaldson, who had only played the Gary Player course a few times before this week, once in a social round 18 years ago with his cousin, and once in the Dimension Data Pro- Am which used to be staged here at Sun City.
Stenson, after a second round 67, admitted to being dead-beat after a long season, complicated by battles with his well-publicised wrist injury.
“I am tired. I look tired and feel tired but I have put myself in a pretty good position so hopefully I can keep going and keep making birdies.
“I mentioned it the other day that if you can get yourself in a decent position early in the week then that can give you the little bit extra motivation to keep going to try and be there on Sunday so I am hoping that will be the case again this week.
“I didn’t play my best today but I have just come from two weeks off and having my wrist issues.
“I am pretty much spent mentally and physically,” said the Swede, who won the 2008 Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Moore, a refreshingly unconventional American who, when the mood takes him, wears a tie on the golf course, blitzed this tough course in a bogey-free second round of 65 which included seven birdies.
“I hit some really nice iron shots straight at the pin and, while the putts haven’t been dropping like I wanted them to do in recent weeks, I was sneaking them in today,” said Moore who played the nine- hole stretch between No 6 and No 14 in an impressive seven-underpar.
The shot of the day probably belonged to Charl Schwartzel, who with his first swing early in the morning hit a long-iron at the treacherous par-5 ninth hole with its island green to about a metre from the cup to set up an eagle-three.
That was in his first round of 68 and when he dropped a shot at the par-3 16th hole it was, remarkably, his first bogey in 77 holes on tour, taking into account his victory in last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
Schwartzel would at one stage flirt with the lead but a couple of unwelcome bogey sixes in his second round of 70 – one at the second and one at the 14th, holes players would normally look to birdie – cost him ground yesterday and he is the leading South African on six- under- par 138, alongside Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge and American DA Points, who eagled both the ninth and 10th par-5 holes en route to a second round 67.
On seven-under 137, just one back of Stenson and Moore, is defending champion Martin Kaymer of Germany and Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn.
Three- time NGC winner Ernie Els is on two-over 146 following a 71.
ON FIRE: Jamie Donaldson is leading the Nedbank Golf Challenge.