SUN CITY – After a long and challenging day at the Nedbank Golf Challenge here on Friday, it was Frenchman Victor Dubuisson who emerged as the leader at the halfway point after shooting a two-under-par 70 to be at six-under-par.
The 27-year-old, who is 73rd in the Race to Dubai standings and hasn’t enjoyed a good 2017 season, recorded four birdies and two bogeys to go with his opening round of 68 to lead by two from South African Darren Fichardt and England’s Lee Westwood.
The fairytale continued for the Centurion-based Fichardt, who only got into the tournament hours before his 9am tee-time on Thursday after the withdrawal of two players when he shot a three-under 69 on Friday to go with his opening-round 71.
He described the elements on a windy day at Sun City as the toughest he’d experienced in several visits to the tournament.
Heavy rain and lightning also forced the players from the course in the afternoon, which forced the suspension of play for nearly three hours, the final pairing only finishing around 6.30pm.
“The rough has been brutal in the past, but the elements were the toughest I’ve experienced,” said Fichardt.
“The conditions were just so harsh and committing to a shot was very difficult, you just didn’t know if the ball was going to fly 120 metres or 170... and still having to go over water in places; it’s not the greatest feeling in the world.
“You’ve just got to pick your shot and commit to it; I think that’s the key in conditions like this. Keep it in the fairway, hit the greens and try to make par.
“I’m in it, I’m staying in touch of the leaders so I’m happy... I’m playing well, so let’s hope the fairytale continues to the end.”
Westwood, who has won the title two times and is a regular visitor to the tournament agreed that Friday’s round challenged him on many different levels – and he’s been here 12 times now.
“I played really good golf today. Bar a few putts that didn’t go in, I hit it close and that shows what the quality was of the long game,” he said.
“But that was certainly one of the toughest days I’ve experienced on this course. The wind blew as strongly as I’ve experienced it... it changed directions all day and was gusty, too. I think my experience here was important today – and will be going forward - so the harder it gets, the better for me.”
Westwood, who won in 2010 and 2011, made six birdies and four bogeys in a round of 70.
Four players, Ross Fisher (71), Tyrrell Hatton (70), Scott Jamieson (73) and defending champion Alex Noren (72), are three shots off the lead and still very much in the running.
Fisher, who has become a regular at the tournament in recent years and has come close to winning, also spoke about the difficult conditions and dilemma in picking the right club.
“It was tough out there, and there won’t be too many scores better than 70. Staying patient was key. This course is tricky at the best of times, but the conditions today meant it wasn’t easy pulling clubs.
“But I made some nice putts at eight, nine, 10 and 11, and the last three holes were solid, so I’m very pleased where I am.”
Only 12 players (of the 71) broke par on the day and while Charl Schwartzel (73) and Branden Grace (75) were not among them they are still very much in the hunt, being four and five shots off the lead respectively.