South Africa’s Darren Fichardt was the leader in the clubhouse but Paul Waring was a stroke ahead of him out on the course when play was called off due to darkness on the second day of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Friday.
After the first day was disrupted by rain and a waterlogged course, it was a long second day for Fichardt as he had to complete the last six holes of his first round, posting a 66 on the West Course, and then tackle the testing East Course that was made even longer by the sodden conditions.
But the experienced Northern Gautenger was composure personified as he produced a delightful 66 on Friday afternoon to reach the halfway mark on 11-under-par overall.
Both Waring, who had picked up five birdies through 12 holes on the West Course to move to 12-under-par, and Dean Burmester, who is on 11-under-par after playing 15 holes of the East Course in six-under, have it all to play for when they complete their second rounds when play gets underway at 7am on Saturday.
Fichardt’s return to form – he has not had a top-10 finish since he was runner-up in the BMW International Open last June – was all about a change of putter.
“I changed my putter and my grip after eight years, I decided I’d had enough, I’ve struggled so much with my putting. I’ve worked hard on my chipping and putting, and it was nice to stand over putts today and feel that I can make them,” Fichardt said after his round which included five birdies and an eagle.
The 41-year-old Fichardt only dropped one shot, which he described as a lack of concentration from the middle of the 10th fairway, and he said he will be pacing himself come the weekend, which will be played entirely on the East Course, as he goes in search of his fifth European Tour title.
“I am going to pace myself because the East is really long and wet and quite tricky. I’m just going to try and hit fairways and greens, and you can’t miss the greens because it’s very wet around them too,” he said.
Another South African, Jacques Kruyswijk, ensured that he will be strongly in contention over the weekend as he posted a 70 on the East Course to go with his great opening round of 63, moving to 10-under-par, two off the pace set by Englishman Waring.
Waring showed he’s in great form as he had nine birdies, offset by two bogeys, on the East Course on the first day, and he had a great start to his second round with birdies on the eminently birdieable first two holes of the West Course.
He then had three birdies in succession around the turn and certainly seems to be over the back problems he has been plagued by so often during his previous six years on the European Tour.
Defending champion Haydn Porteous was frustrated by a cold putter as he posted a four-under-par 67 on the West Course, but he is handily placed on nine-under-par, just three behind Waring.
He was joined in a share of fifth place by rookie Swede Anton Karlsson, Welshman Stuart Manley, who fired a tremendous 67 on the East Course, Englishman Aaron Rai and Frenchman Romain Langasque, who still had six holes to play in his second round.
Brandon Stone has found a way back into contention after starting with a disappointing 70 on the West Course, putting together a beautiful round of six-under-par through 15 holes on the East Course to reach seven-under-par overall, but SA Open champion Graeme Storm and 2014 Joburg Open winner George Coetzee are way down the field on five-under.