Justin Rose of England fired a seven-under-par 65 on Friday, which equalled the day’s best round, while South Africa’s Trevor Immelman signed for a 66 as the pair shared the second-round lead on 11-under 133 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Heavy mid-morning rain before play started softened the Gary Player Country Club course and also brought the lift, clean and place rule into operation.
This made this 7 162m monster of a course a little more user-friendly as the greens were receptive, which made it possible to attack the flagsticks, and it was easier — with hardly any roll — to keep the ball on the fairway.
What’s more, being allowed to clean the mud off the ball means the players could trust their ball flight.
”So scores were always going to come down,” said world number eight Rose, who had seven birdies in a bogey-free return. He was out in 34 strokes and home in just 31 with six threes in the last eight holes.
”I hit the first 15 greens in regulation, which was pretty satisfying, and when I did miss the par-16th with my tee-shot, I made a very good up and down to save par,” added the 27-year-old, who won the end-of-season Volvo Masters to top the 2007 Order of Merit on the European Tour.
Immelman had eight birdies and two bogeys in his 66. ”But it was one of those bounce-back days, because my first drop was at number three but then I immediately got back a shot with a nice little two at the par-three fourth.
”And when I made my other bogey at 15, I hit right back with a birdie two at 16. The greens are so pure that if you pick the right line the ball’s going to drop and I seemed to be picking the right lines today [Friday].”
Lurking three shots off the pace on 136 following a 67 is Ernie Els, who is chasing a record fourth title in this 12-man event that was first played in 1981, and today offers a first prize of $1,2-million.
”Nice to see some of my putts dropping for a chance,” said the world number five, who feels the only thing missing in his game right now is a hot putter.
”If I want to challenge Tiger Woods for the world number one spot — as I set out to do a year ago — I need to start putting well, as that’s the only way I’m going to win regularly as the rest of my game is pretty sharp.”
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who finished second behind winner Jim Furyk last year (the American is injured and not defending his title) roared back into contention with a 65 after a slow start on Thursday when he had a 72.
”Two double bogeys killed me on day one but today I took the bad holes out, made some good putts, had seven birdies and didn’t drop a shot. It was just the kind of great comeback I needed.”
Australia’s Adam Scott, who shared the first-round lead with Immelman on 67, lost ground with a 71 on Friday. — AFP