Defending champion Brandon Stone found himself in the thickest of thorn bushes typical of the Crocodile River early on in his second round, but by the end of the day he was right there in contention as the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek reached the halfway mark, with the South African just three strokes off the lead.
Stone began the day three off the pace set by fellow South African Oliver Bekker on the first day, but his start was not promising as he had to hack out of thick bush, his lanky frame almost totally obscured, on the second hole, resulting in a double-bogey seven.
But the 25-year-old regrouped superbly as he immediately birdied the third hole and also picked up a shot on the par-four sixth.
Four birdies in a row sandwiched bogies on 11 and 16, and Stone decided discretion was the better part of valour on the 18th.
Following a superb drive, he decided he did not want to risk ending his round in the water, laid up, but missed a very makeable birdie putt.
His 70 was nevertheless a solid day’s work and he is tied-sixth alongside Bekker and compatriots Darren Fichardt and Dylan Frittelli, Australian Dimitrios Papadatos and former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson.
“After that involuntary safari on the second when I saw more bush than I would have wanted and was fortunate to just make a double, I played solid golf and holed a few nice putts, even though I left a few shots on the course towards the end. I played some phenomenal golf today and hopefully I can grab those shots back early in the third round,” Stone said.
“Taking a drop two club-lengths away would not have got me out of that bush on the second, and I had a decent lie and could kinda swing, so I just had to get in there and have a massive go.
“On 18 I thought I would rile up my caddie and say ‘we’ve got 225 to the green, what do you think about a four-iron’, but I thought that would be in bad taste after a long, hot day. We’d already discussed that unless I had less than 200 coming in, I wouldn’t go for it. And then the putt kinda dug in and snapped left,” Stone said.
Stone is clearly a man to watch on a course he certainly thrives on, but he admitted the new greens at Leopard Creek, which are still to settle in, are causing him some frustration.
“I’m a bit frustrated with the putting but it just shows how much I love this place. The last three holes kind of just left three shots abegging for me. But I will come back tomorrow and see if we can grab those three back. I just wish they would pit the pins where the greens are in good shape,” Stone said.