Nedbank Golf Challenge
McDowell leads at Sun City
Graeme McDowell (Gallo Images)
Sun City – Graeme McDowell had an unwanted safari on the 14th
Gary Player Country Club on Friday, but he put the excursion into the bush
behind him with a five-under-par 67 to take the halfway lead of the Nedbank
his tee shot on the 550-metre (601-yard) into the thick rough left of the bordering
cart-path and it took two lusty hacks to free his ball from the trouble. Then
his fourth leaked right and long and he played out of the bunker to six feet
from the pin.
shot can only be described as an air shot, really,” he said. “My ball was
sitting on a rock, and I contacted it about an inch behind the ball, hit the
rock and my club just bounced right over the top of the ball.”
inevitable two-putt from six feet irked him, but he kept his head, and two
great birdie putts – on the par-three 16th and on the 18th
– got him back to where he was before the bushwhacking derailed a train which
has looked increasingly unstoppable all week.
particularly impressive around the turn, with three birdies in a row from nine
The good scoring
comes from a healthy respect for the course: “There is so much trouble lurking
on this golf course,” he said. “You’ve got to be really decisive off the tee –
the second you start steering, you get into big trouble.”
behind him a threatening gathering, including the lanky Swede Robert Karlsson,
who came third in his first outing in the 2008 event, Jason Dufner of the
United States who pieced together a bogey-free 68, Martin Kaymer, whose eagle
on 10 propelled him into contention, and defending champion Lee Westwood.
playing in his ninth version of the tournament, with a worst finish of seventh
to his credit, and he relishes the challenges posed by the course. In the
second round, he overcame bogeys on six and 12 in his two-under-par 70 in a
typically bulldog display.
favourite and overnight leader Charl Schwartzel had a day to forget as he
seemed unable to buy a birdie – only on the ninth, on which half the players
picked up a stroke on the day, did he manage to dip under par.
One of the
other players who didn’t make birdie on nine on the day was Darren Clarke, who
turned in two-under 34, but it was his closing nine which was the eye-opener.
He made six
birdies, a bogey and two double-bogeys on his way in for a scorecard devoid of
pars on that homeward nine. But the resultant 69 has him at one-under-par for
the tournament, and six shots off the pace with 36 holes to play is not out of
man who looks to be out of reach of McDowell was Francesco Molinari, who slumped
to a five-over-par 77 in the second round and is five-over for the tournament.
a first-timer in the event, a tournament which has been notoriously difficult
for debutants to win, with Mark McNulty in 1986 being the last to have done so.
But he has
kept his card tidy in the 36 holes he has played so far, with just the
double-bogey in the second round and a bogey on the 13th in the
opening round to do any damage to an impressive march.
137 - Graeme McDowell (NIR) 70 67
138 - Jason Dufner (USA) 70 68, Martin Kaymer (GER) 70 68, Robert Karlsson(SWE) 69 69, Lee Westwood (ENG) 68 70
140 - Kim Kyung-Tae (KOR) 70 70, Simon Dyson (ENG) 70 70
141 - Anders Hansen (DEN) 72 69, Luke Donald (ENG) 70 71
142 - Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 68 74
143 - Darren Clarke (NIR) 74 69
149 - Francesco Molinari (ITA) 72 77