South Africans take control at Dunhill Championship

Hennie Otto moved into a share of the lead with Ernie Els only one behind him, in a solid second round for the South Africans at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews on Friday.

Playing the Old Course under blue skies and bright sunshine, Otto posted a bogey-free 67 to share the lead with Peter O’Malley and Nick Dougherty on 11 under.

Els carded another 67 to place him joint second on 10 under, where Anton Haig also finished the round following his 66.

And Trevor Immelman came close to breaking the course record on his way to a 65 for a total of six under.

All agreed that the benign conditions made it critical to take advantage.

I’ve never seen weather like this here,” said Otto, who started his round on the 10th with three successive birdies.

”I putted very well again. I didn’t leave myself any putts longer than three feet for my second putt, and that made the difference in keeping the bogeys off my card.”

Otto came close to making a bogey on the 352-yard par-four ninth, where the club slipped out of his hand on his tee shot, leaving him 160 yards to the green.

”I pretty much topped my three wood off the tee on the shortest par four on the course,” said Otto. ”I hit my second on the green, but back-edge right. Then I lipped out for birdie from about 100 feet and made the putt for par. Generally, though, it was very steady stuff out there.”

Otto plays Kingsbarns in Saturday’s third round and says he’s determined to take advantage of the shortest of the three courses (Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns) used for this event.

”You have to do that and then just take it from there. If it’s your week, it’s your week. You never know. If you told me I can have this at the beginning of the week, I would’ve taken it.”

Els was also surprised by the good weather at St Andrews, but says he maybe tried a bit too hard to take advantage of it.

”I think we all felt that with weather like this you want to shoot low. You feel like you might never have a day like this again.”

But a troublesome back saw him struggle with his swing for the first 10 holes.

”I didn’t hit the ball great early on. But it worked itself out over the turn and I felt much better over the final few holes. It was a bit of a test of patience out there. But I’ve got to be happy with my score.”

Immelman looked set for a memorable day when he went out in 30 with four birdies and an eagle. He opened the back nine with back-to-back birdies on holes 10 and 11 and added another on 14, and must have been thinking of breaking 60 as he breezed past the current course record of 64.

But he then bogeyed 15 and 16 to come home in 35 for a 65.

”I had it going there, but it was disappointing to slip up on 15 and 16,” he said. ”I played the first 14 holes so well, and then had a bad finish. But all in all, seven under is a good score. At least I got myself on the right track again, and another round like this and I’ll be in with a chance.” — Sapa

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