Siz­zling Schwartzel

Ea­gle on 17 pro­pels South African to se­cond-round lead

The Star Malaysia - - Sport -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: Charl Schwartzel ( pic) sank a 75 yard ea­gle on his penul­ti­mate hole to card a se­cond round eight-un­der 63 for the lead at the half­way point of the Euro­pean Tour’s South African Open at the Rand­park Golf Club.

Schwartzel’s 12-un­der tour­na­ment to­tal is one ahead of Zam­bian Madal­itso Muthiya, who fol­lowed up his open­ing round 63 with a 68 on the tougher Firethorn Course.

With a mas­sive 240 player field, the first two rounds are split be­tween Firethorn and the shorter Bush­wil­low course which Schwartzel tack­led in his se­cond round.

Overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen man­aged nine birdies in his 62 on Thurs­day but found the go­ing much tougher on Firethorn with a 70 leav­ing him on 10-un­der, tied for third with last week­end’s Mau­ri­tius Open win­ner, Amer­i­can Kurt Ki­tayama (69) and home player Zan­der Lom­bard (68).

Schwartzel made a steady start with gains on the first and fifth holes but sprang to life with four birdies and an ea­gle on his back nine.

The ea­gle came af­ter a way­ward drive on the par five 17th as he chipped in from 75 yards, and could yet be a piv­otal mo­ment as he seeks a first win in his home Open Cham­pi­onship af­ter twice fin­ish­ing run­ner-up.

“It was one of my worst tee shots of the week so far,” Schwartzel ad­mit­ted.

“I fig­ured if I could walk off with four or five that would be good. I man­aged to hit a good lit­tle third shot there.”

For­mer US Masters cham­pion Schwartzel, 34, be­lieves he has been hit­ting the ball bet­ter than ever in prac­tice but is still look­ing for his first Tour ti­tle in al­most three years.

“I feel like I’ve been play­ing well, I’ve been hit­ting very low scores in prac­tice and on the range I’m hit­ting the ball as good as I ever have.

“It’s just this lit­tle thing called golf ... I’m try­ing to fig­ure it out,” he said.

“The golf cour­ses are not play­ing very long, so if you are hit­ting it straight you are leav­ing your­self with a mid-iron into these par fives so you should be tak­ing ad­van­tage.

“I would love to win this one, I’ve given my­self a good chance and I’m look­ing for­ward to the week­end.”

Four-time Ma­jor win­ner Ernie Else (71) is at five-un­der for the tour­na­ment, level on the leader­board with his nephew, Jo­van Re­bula (71), who is the lead­ing am­a­teur in the field.

Re­bula, 21, claimed the Bri­tish Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship at Royal Aberdeen in June.

The high­est fin­ish­ing three non-ex­empt play­ers this week will gain ex­emp­tion for the Open Cham­pi­onship at Royal Portrush next July, with 2010 Open win­ner Oosthuizen al­ready on the en­try list.

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