Grace goes five clear in Malelane

European Tour

South African Branden Grace will take a commanding five-shot lead into the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The 26-year-old was three clear overnight after opening with a stellar 62, and extended that lead at Leopard Creek on Friday courtesy of another classy round of six-under-par 66.

Starting on the back nine, Grace quickly started making inroads, birdying the 11th, 13th, 15th and 18th before adding a fifth at the par-four first.

His sole blemish of the day came at the short fifth, but two more birdies at the sixth and ninth ensured he stayed well clear of the chasing pack on 16 under par.

“This is a golf course that suits me and if I keep hitting everything in play the way I have been the first two days then it should be a good weekend,” said Grace.

“The pins have been kind so far; I’m sure there’s going to be a couple of tricky and sticky pins out there on the weekend, but I’ll just stick to the game plan and see what the next two rounds offer us.

“Today was great – the ball striking wasn’t as good as yesterday.

“I kept it going – there was a little bit of a slip there due to a lack of concentration but it happens.

“I’ve been hitting it well and kept on hitting good putts out there.”

Grace’s closest rival is Italy’s Francesco Molinari, whose 65 on the day saw him rise six places into sole possession of second place on 11 under.

“I played really well today,” said Molinari. “I holed some really good putts – the last four or five holes could have been better, but seven under is always a good round.

“Branden has set a low target for everyone, so it was good to get some birdies.”

Grace’s countryman Tjaart van der Walt follows in third a further shot back, while last week’s Nedbank Challenge winner, Danny Willett, is in a tie for fourth on nine under alongside Shaun Norris and Dane Lucas Bjerregaard.

England’s Andrew Johnston, in a four-way tie for seventh, is a full eight shots off the pace.

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