Cape trio gain a lion’s share of the lead

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - MIKE DE BRUYN

THREE men on a golf­ing mis­sion, the trio hail­ing from Cape Town. Erik van Rooyen, An­drew Ge­or­giou and Justin Hard­ing share the lead in the R1.2 mil­lion Lion of Africa Cape Open at Royal Cape at the half­way mark.

A 156-man field teed off at South Africa’s old­est golf club on Thurs­day and now only the top 50 and ties who made the cut will con­test the fi­nal two rounds. Van Rooyen had the out­right lead at one stage on 10un­der-par, but a bo­gey five on his penul­ti­mate hole cost him as he set­tled for a one-un­der 71 and a two-round to­tal of nine­un­der-par 135.

The 25-year-old, who turned pro in 2013, was first to break the course record on day one, a sparkling eight-un­der 64 which in­cluded nine birdies and one drop shot set­ting the new mark.

It was matched by Chris­ti­aan Bas­son (off the pace now af­ter a 76) and then Ge­or­giou, who bet­tered it by two on his way to a spark­ing 10-un­der 62.

Van Rooyen made four birdies and three bo­geys.

Ge­or­giou had to set­tle for a one-over 73, his round marked by two bo­geys and a sin­gle birdie. Hard­ing ea­gled two parfives on the one loop on his way to a three-un­der 69. Ockie Stry­dom, who topped the leader­board briefly be­fore drop­ping two shots at his last two holes, is fourth. Michael Hol­lick (71), Wy­nand Din­gle (67) and Hen­nie Otto (70) are next best.

“I had a day of mixed for­tunes,” said Van Rooyen. “I felt that I played bet­ter than my score sug­gests. But I’m in the hunt for my first ti­tle, again, and that’s a great feel­ing.”

Ge­or­giou is also chas­ing a maiden vic­tory. But he knows all too well that he’s still got another 36 holes to play.

The 29-year-old only needed 24 putts for his first round, but it was a dif­fer­ent story sec­ond time round when he re­quired 32. “Overnight rain left the greens slower and I wasn’t quite able to mas­ter them,” he said. “I left a lot of putts short of the hole, hence my score. Funny thing was the course was play­ing bet­ter.

“It’s bit­ter-sweet feel­ings in a way. I had a chance to sep­a­rate my­self from the chas­ing pack and never cashed in. My driv­ing off the tee box was er­rant at times, so I couldn’t take ad­van­tage.”

Ge­or­giou be­gan his ear­ly­morn­ing round on the first hole and made nine pars on the trot for an out­ward loop of 36. He suf­fered two bo­geys in five holes at 11 and 14 be­fore a wel­come birdie three on his penul­ti­mate hole.

Hard­ing, 29, may be the man to fol­low. He’s bagged four wins to date since turn­ing pro in 2010 (won last on Cape soil in June), giv­ing him the edge over the other two in terms of ex­pe­ri­ence. Eagling the 11th and 16th helped him climb to the sum­mit.

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