Charl blazes back with 10 birdies

The electric storm that halted Friday’s 2nd round of the Joburg Open couldn’t stop Charl Schwartzel charging to the top.

The electric storm that halted the second round of the Joburg Open on Friday couldn’t stop Charl Schwartzel charging to the top.

When play resumed, Schwartzel, who at No 32 in the World is the highest ranked player in the field, raced on to a course record 10-under 62 that won’t count because placing was allowed on the soggy fairways, but it will certainly put him in the pound seats heading into the weekend.

For his halfway total of 13-under helped him grab a share of the second round lead with fellow South African Garth Mulroy and Englishman Jamie Elson.

After opening with a disappointing 68 on the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club’s tougher East Course on Thursday, Schwartzel took harsh revenge on the easier West Course today, blasting it with five blistering birdies on each of the front and back nines.

This while both Mulroy and Elson were adding a 64 on the East Course to the 65s they shot on the West Course on Thursday.

Martin Maritz, one of the overnight leaders, finished with an 11-under after only managing to add a 69 to the sizzling 62 that had earned him the joint first round lead with surprise package Tyrone Mordt.

Mordt went one better than Maritz and at 12-under is just one shot off the lead in a tie for 4th at 12-under with Aiken and Kingston

Elson narrowly lost his European Tour card at the end of 2010, but by reaching the halfway stage bogey free here in Friday’s second round, he has given himself every opportunity of earning a new one – though getting in front and holding off Schwartzel when the field is cut to 60 players for the two weekend rounds, won’t be easy.

Not in the kind of form Schwartzel was in on Friday.

Having opened with a 65 on the West Course, Elson burst into life with five straight birdies from the fifth in his second round.

He picked up another shot at the 11th before play was suspended for two hours due to the threat of lightning and the splashed out of a greenside bunker to two feet on the par five last on the resumption to reach his 13 under par tally.

On either side of the suspension for lightning, Schwartzel produced a whole string of his own flashes of brilliance.

After struggling with his swing for the past few weeks, he consulted fellow professional Hendrik Buhrmann, who has a reputation for being the man most of the pros seek advice from on the range.

“I phoned him and said I need help. He’s really given me some good advice. The first round was all bit of trial and error and I ground it out to shoot three under. Then in the second round it fell into place.

“I hit great tee shots and iron shots and used about every opportunity I had on the greens,” said Schwartzel. “It was a fantastic round.”

Indeed It was. It was also his lowest tournament round and bogey free.

And with the weather certain to be a factor on the weekend as well, Schwartzel knows exactly how important the round could be.

“You had to give yourself a good chance in case this becomes a 54-hole event. If it goes to 72 holes, we’ll probably reach 20 under par. But I think if you go further into the 20s you’ve got a good chance of winning.”

With the final two rounds to be played on the East Course – the first two days are shared by the East and West Courses – it is hard to believe that this kind of scoring will be kept in check by the more challenging of the two layouts.
“The greens are very soft so you can go right at these pins. The greens are at a speed where you can be aggressive with the putts,” Mulroy said after a round where he made five birdies and an eagle in succession on the East on Friday.

England’s Elson also admitted the wetness of the course favoured the players. “It’s target golf really. The greens are holding, so if you’re swinging well there are a lot of birdies out there. It’s a case of just go get ’em, really.”