Branden Grace and Keith Horne were tied for the lead when the second round of the BMW South African Open was terminated by lightning and heavy rain at Glendower Golf Club on Friday.
The pair of South Africans, neither of whom have won the prestigious trophy yet, were both on eight-under-par and one stroke ahead of compatriot Jbe’ Kruger.
Horne collected three birdies and did not drop a shot as he posted a 69 in the morning, and Grace then roared through 11 holes in five-under-par to join the veteran at the top of the leaderboard.
Grace, the highest ranked player in the field, had a superb run of four successive birdies from the second hole and then had birdied the par-four 10th and 11th holes just before play was stopped shortly after 3pm.
Glendower certainly showed her teeth on Friday as overnight leader Jaco van Zyl and Shaun Norris, who was second after a 66 in the first round, both tumbled down the leaderboard.
Van Zyl started well enough with a par at the first and birdie on the second, but then, as the weather closed in, the wheels came off with bogeys on the fourth, seventh and ninth holes, followed by a double-bogey on the 10th when his weak approach found the water in front of the green.
The 36-year-old South African is on three-under-par overall, five off the leaders, and needs to regroup over his last seven holes when play resumes early on Saturday morning.
Norris had a particularly awful day with six bogeys and two double-bogeys in the 12 holes he played, crashing to five-over-par and needing to collect a bunch of birdies just to make the cut.
Liezl Els is doing a great amount of good off the course with her fundraising efforts for Autism schools, but her husband Ernie, the tournament host, also faces a battle to make the cut as he will resume on Saturday morning on three-over-par through 10 holes.
Young Brandon Stone finned his way into a tie for fourth on six-under-par as he fired a fabulous 67, joint best round of the day with 2011 champion Hennie Otto.
Veteran Retief Goosen, despite an odd choice of facial hair, remains in contention on four-under as he posted a level-par 72 on Friday. It was another peculiar round for the two-time champion, featuring two bogeys, four birdies and a double bogey, taking his tally for the two rounds to three double-drops and 12 birdies.
Grace had just a single bogey on his card, courtesy of a three-putt on the par-three sixth hole, but it really stuck in the craw because the world number 14 had putted superbly up till then.
“The putter was really working and when I hit a four-iron into the green at the fifth and found the hole from about 25 feet for my fourth straight birdie I was on a roll, before that three-putt for bogey at six put my little run to an end. But I came back by sinking good putts at both 10 and 11 for birdies before we were called off.
“It had been the putter that did the trick out there. At three I hit a five-iron to about 15 feet and managed to roll that in for a two, then at four it was three-iron, eight-iron to 20 feet and I knocked that one in too. So, yes, overall it was a pretty good day with the short stick and I feel I’m right in there,” Grace said.
Kruger stayed in third position with a two-under-par 70, but said afterwards that there were times when he really felt like a fish out of water.
“I didn’t play that great, it was one of those days, but I’m still there. I only hit a couple of fairways, I hit the ball as poorly as I have for the last couple of months. But my putting – I made a few vital ones – that was the big key today,” Kruger said.
South African Justin Walters is alongside Stone on six-under-par after a 70, but he said he will be happy not to live quite so dangerously over the weekend after his round on Friday included six birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey at the par-three 17th.
“It was very much more interesting today – lots of birdies, lots of bogeys. I hope I don’t have too many more like that for the weekend, maybe a couple more steady rounds would be what I’m looking for, but I shot under par today, so I can’t complain.
“ I had a few moments where I was doubting a few things, but I managed to pull through mentally and managed to get it round under par. To get two-under round this course is a really good score in my mind, but I hope we can do a little better,” Walters said.
Englishman Ross McGowan is also on six-under after comfortably going around the parklands course in 70, while South African youngsters Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Jacques Kruyswijk are in seventh place on five-under.
Defending champion Andy Sullivan is in danger of missing the cut after rounds of 75 and 72 left him in 71st place on three-over, while Morten Orum Madsen, who won at Glendower in 2013, is in freefall after following his 79 in the first round by going out in 40 on the front nine on Friday.
Otto, the last South African to win the national open, could have lifted himself into contention with his eight-birdie round, but three bogeys left him on one-under-par overall and in a tie for 28th.