Louis Oosthuizen watches a tee shot on Friday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/EPA

SUN CITY – South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen took advantage of Sergio Garcia’s battling homeward nine at Gary Player Country Club on Friday to fire a five-under 67 and move within one of the halfway lead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Oosthuizen three-putted the eighth hole for the second day in succession as he made double bogey there, but five birdies and an eagle saw him reach 36 holes in eight-under-par 136.

“You know, the eighth hole, I don’t feel like I really have a club for that hole to tee off,” he said.

“I want to hit three-iron, but it’s probably the narrowest part of the fairway where you want to hit three-iron and trying to hit it a long way, as well.

“It’s just a tough tee shot on my eye, and I have to work on that tomorrow.”

Garcia still has the lead, however, and the Spanish champion from 2001 and 2003 is nothing if not experienced around a course he says is playing very tough.

The 2017 Masters champion carded a one-under 71, with three bogeys on the way in to go with the one he made on the fifth, which was the first of his week.

“The course is tough,” he said. “Not every day you’re going to go out there and shoot 64. It doesn’t work like that.

“I feel like I played quite well. Obviously three three-putts, that’s never ideal. But on these greens, it can happen. They are so quick, and some of the pins are so tucked to the edges that it’s difficult to hit it close to them.

“But you know, other than that, I felt like I played well throughout the whole day. I stayed positive. I stayed calm and just a shame that, I wanted to shoot something below 70.

“I felt like I had a chance of doing it. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, but we’re still in the lead.”

For Oosthuizen, things really went his way. “Not looking at the one tee shot that I hit on eight, I feel like I’m hitting it well off the tee,” he said.

“I’m finding the fairways and my iron-play has been good for a while. I’m doing everything well.

“I’m just not making those putts that look like they are going in. I’m hitting very good putts. I haven’t hit many bad putts this week. You just need those putts to go in to win events.”

Finland’s Miko Korhonen fired a two-under-par 70 to nestle into third spot, two behind Oosthuizen.

And two shots further back was a group of four players on four-under-par, just five off the lead.

That group included South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli, Englishman Aaron Rai, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and two-time champion at Sun City, Lee Westwood of England.

Defending champion Branden Grace was another stroke back on three-under at the halfway mark, and by no means out of contention after his battling 71.

“I missed three putts inside three or four feet and that’s pretty costly around here,” said Grace. “That can turn a great round into an average round like it did at the end of the day. But I’m still in there.”

So is Oosthuizen. “I need a good, solid round tomorrow,” he said.

“I don’t have to really attack or do anything crazy, but just a solid round to put me in a good spot for Sunday. I’m very excited.

I’ve got quite a few friends and family here and obviously the home crowd behind me. It should be fun playing tomorrow.”

Leading scores after second round:

135 - Sergio Garcia 64 71

136 - Louis Oosthuizen 69 67

138 - Mikko Korhonen 68 70

140 - Dylan Frittelli 73 67, Aaron Rai 72 68, Shane Lowry 71 69, Lee Westwood 71 69

141 - Darren Fichardt 74 67, Haotong Li 71 70, Andrea Pavan 71 70, Thomas Detry 75 66, Branden Grace 70 71, Matt Wallace 69 72, Mike Lorenzo-Vera 68 73

142 - Andrew Johnston 73 69, Julien Guerrier 74 68, Matthew Fitzpatrick 71 71, Ashun Wu 69 73

143 - Renato Paratore 72 71, Rory McIlroy 72 71, Matthias Schwab 72 71, Dean Burmester 72 71, Ross Fisher 71 72, Ryan Fox 70 73, Andy Sullivan 69 74

144 - Pablo Larrazabal 74 70, Nicolas Colsaerts 75 69, Benjamin Hebert 69 75

145 - Brandon Stone 74 71, Sam Horsfield 73 72, Lucas Bjerregaard 75 70, Gavin Green 75 70, Oliver Fisher 75 70, Lucas Herbert 76 69, Jason Scrivener 69 76, Martin Kaymer 76 69

146 - Padraig Harrington 73 73, Adrian Otaegui 74 72, Maximilian Kieffer 75 71, Joakim Lagergren 72 74, Tom Lewis 75 71, Richard Sterne 77 69, Erik van Rooyen 77 69, Charl Schwartzel 68 78

African News Agency (ANA)