Charl Schwartzel leads South African Open after second-round 63
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 07/12/18 5:03pm
Charl Schwartzel matched his lowest score of 2018 as he stormed into a one-shot lead at the halfway stage of the South African Open in Johannesburg.
Schwartzel carded six birdies and holed out for a spectacular eagle at the 17th in a blemish-free 63 that lifted him to 12 under, one clear of Madalitso Muthiya and two ahead of countrymen Louis Oosthuizen and Zander Lombard.
The former Masters champion has won eight times on home soil but has yet to claim victory in his national Open, but he put himself in prime position for a 12th European Tour title with a superb performance around the Bushwillow Course at Randpark GC.
Schwartzel made birdies at the first and fifth in a solid, outward 33 before he made huge strides up the leaderboard after picking up three shots in four holes from the 11th to move within striking distance of the lead.
The 34-year-old then drained a big putt for his sixth gain of the day at the 16th, and he reached the summit in some style at the par-five next when, after a wayward drive forced him to lay-up, his wedge from close to 100 yards pitched in the rear fringe and spun back into the hole at pace.
A par at the last capped Schwartzel's best round since the final day of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in early August, and he was delighted that his good form had translated into the score he felt he deserved.
"I still can't figure out why I'm not getting the performances I need, even after that round," he said. "I've had a few tournaments where I've played well like this, so I'm not going to talk too much yet. There's lots of golf to play. All I know is I'm playing well. I'm driving the ball well and I haven't been doing that consistently.
"The drive on 17 was probably one of my worst tee-shots for the week. I figured if I could walk off with four or five, it would be good. I managed to hit a really good little third shot there, and they don't happen very often."
Muthiya, notable for being the first Zambian to compete in the US Open back in 2006, followed up his opening 63 with a 68 on the Firethorn Course which featured an impressive response to a double-bogey at the 12th as he birdied the next three holes to take his tally to six for the round.
The 35-year-old one-putted each of the final five greens to remain in outright second ahead of Oosthuizen, Lombard and last week's winner in Mauritius, Kurt Kitayama.
Oosthuizen held the overnight lead after blitzing the Bushwillow layout for a 62 on day one, but he found the going tougher on the Firethorn and was one over for his round after following an opening bogey with 10 consecutive pars.
He revived his challenge with three straight birdies, but another bogey at 16 dropped him into the three-way share of third place with Kitayama and Lombard, who matched Schwartzel's eagle at the penultimate hole of the Bushwillow Course to salvage a 68.
Matt Wallace's bid for a fourth win of an outstanding year remained intact as a 69 left him only four off the lead along with Branden Grace heading into the weekend, while fan-favourite Ernie Els is seven off the pace after a 71.
Due to the prospect of bad weather in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon, tee times have been brought forward for the third round. Live coverage now begins two hours early than scheduled at 7:30am on Sky Sports Golf.