Schwartzel goes nuclear in galloping to SA Open lead

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa celebrates making an Eagle on the 17th during day 2 of the SA Open at Randpark Golf Club on December 07, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images)

The 34-year-old once again shows his pedigree, but now he needs to find the consistency to build on this platform.

Charl Schwartzel might still be trying to figure out how to convert his great ball-striking on the range into low scores on the course, but the 2011 Masters champion’s game went nuclear on the back nine of Randpark Golf Club’s Bushwillow course on Friday as he snatched the lead in the South African Open after the second round.

Schwartzel had begun the day five shots off the pace set by compatriot Louis Oosthuizen’s 62 in the first round and, although he birdied the par-five first hole after a brilliant second shot three-iron from the road to the back of the green, he could only collect one more stroke on the front nine.

But he caught fire coming home with four birdies in the first seven holes after the turn being capped by a remarkable eagle on the par-five 17th.

After hitting what he described as “probably one of my worst tee-shots for the week”, Schwartzel laid up and then spun a lob-wedge miles back into the hole from 70 metres out.

A par on the last gave Schwartzel a 63 and a total of 12-under-par, meaning he goes into the weekend with a one-shot lead over Zambian Madalitso Muthiya and is two clear of Oosthuizen, Zander Lombard and American Kurt Kitayama.

“I’m playing well but just not consistently enough. I actually think I played better yesterday, but today’s conditions were much tougher. But that’s this thing called golf, which I’m still trying to figure out. It’s the game we play – it’s not always about how good you play but about the score you put on the board. But shots like 17 really help and it made up for everything else.

“I thought a four or a five would be good after that drive, but I hit a really good third shot, that sort of thing doesn’t happen often. I knew there was a huge amount of space at the back of the green, you could even pitch it over the green and it should come back on. Anywhere short and you could spin it back into the water though,” Schwartzel explained.

While the winner of eight co-sanctioned events on South African soil is in a position of power heading into the weekend, he knows the vagaries of golf dictate that it is far too early to be counting chickens.

“It’s only round two and I’ve had a few tournaments like this lately, so I’m not going to talk too much. I still can’t figure it out, but it’s always nice to be in contention on a course you’re familiar with. Today was probably the most consistent I’ve been driving the ball and I’m hitting the ball as good as ever. I would love to win, given the chance, to make up for the one that got away at Glendower,” the SA Open runner-up at Durban Country Club in 2005 and at Glendower, in a playoff, in 2015, said on Friday.

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