South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel justified his billing as pre-tournament favourite by surging into contention for an eighth European Tour title on home soil in the Tshwane Open yesterday.
Schwartzel began his second round just one shot inside the projected cut on one over par, but carded a flawless 64 at Pretoria Country Club to finish five under par, two shots behind surprise leader Anthony Michael.
The former Masters champion birdied the first and ninth to reach the turn in 33 before holing from 20 feet for an eagle on the 621-yard par-five 12th and from just two feet for birdie on the next.
Schwartzel then chipped in for another birdie on the 15th and parred the last three holes despite the disruption of a 97-minute suspension of play due to the threat of lightning.
World number 774 Michael had earlier set the clubhouse target on seven under after adding a 69 to his opening 64, the 30-year-old carding four birdies and three bogeys.
“It was a bit tough out there today,” Michael said. “The greens were a little bit firmer, the breeze was a little bit tricky today so I’ll definitely take that 69. I left a couple out there but made a few clutch putts so it was definitely steady putting.
“The breeze caught me out a bit and club selection off the tee boxes was what really got me today so I’ll just get focused for tomorrow. I’ll just stay in the moment, stay in the present.”
South African players occupied 10 of the top 13 places, with world number 1,082 Theunis Spangenberg, Joburg Open winner Haydn Porteous and American Daniel Im sharing third place on four under par.
Overnight leader Justin Harding was part of a seven-strong group on two under despite firing a hole-in-one on the 14th in a second round of 75, with defending champion George Coetzee on level par after a 72.
Schwartzel felt his round could have been even better, telling reporters: “I didn’t putt very well today but these greens are difficult to read. I didn’t hit a lot of bad putts, but it’s frustrating when you miss six-footers and still shoot 64.
“I’m very pleased with the way I hit the ball. It was a massive improvement over a few months ago. I hit it beautifully today. I had so many chances. The course was playing tough, and you really needed to keep the ball in the narrow spaces between the trees.
“With all the dog-legs on this course you can hit yourself in to trouble very quickly, but I played really very well today. I hit some beautiful approach shots and gave myself a lot of chances.”
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