Sun City - Lee Westwood opened a three-shot lead with eight birdies in a second-round 64 on Friday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.
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The top-ranked player went bogey-free, and was near flawless at the Gary Player Country Club, to go 12 under and three clear of fellow Englishman Ross Fisher.
Edoardo Molinari, Miguel Angel Jimenez and overnight leader Padraig Harrington are six off the lead in a tie for third on 6 under.
Westwood was one off the course record 63, shared by Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson and Nick Watney, to put himself in prime position for just a second tournament win of 2010 and a $1.25 million pay day.
"I played with Henrik when he shot 63 (in 2008) so I was well aware of what the course record was," Westwood said.
He shot par on No. 2, his only five of the round, and then birdied No. 3 with a 40-foot putt, eventually carding four birdies on the front nine and four on the back in a consistently impressive performance.
"I was in the right spot all day. I played conservative but attacking," he said. "I made a nice 40-footer on the third which got me going and then really hit it close for the rest of the round ... (and) I like these greens."
Westwood's round was three shots better than the next-best player as he finished with a birdie three on the 18th and skipped off toward the scorers' tent _ showing no sign of the niggling right calf injury that has interrupted his season.
"I haven't played a lot recently so I still feel a little bit rusty. But I didn't today. Today it was much more like me, getting the most out of the round.
"I seem to have got into the swing of things now. It was a good day," he said.
In contrast, Ireland's Harrington failed to build on Thursday's one-shot advantage, returning a single birdie and a bogey in a frustrating even-par 72, after he set the pace with his opening 66.
"It was a very average day. Didn't play great, didn't chip very well and didn't hole any putts so it kind of adds up to an even-par 72," said the 2008 PGA Tour and European Tour player of the year, who has slipped to No. 22 in the rankings. "It's not feeling too good this week."
Fisher had an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys in an inconsistent 68 to keep hold of second.
Italy's Molinari, one of four European Ryder Cup winners playing in South Africa's North West province, made his move with his 67. Eagles on No. 2, which he double bogeyed Thursday, and No. 10 helped him climb from a tie for seventh. Jimenez cruised to a second successive 69.
The No. 13-ranked Ernie Els, the highest in the field after Westwood, made 68 to sit 5 under. The home favorite and three-time winner slipped up with a double bogey on the par-three No. 4 after finding the water with his tee shot and then opting to play from the tee again _ he said he didn't like the look of the drop zone.
Defending champion Robert Allenby is tied for seventh with Tim Clark. Clark was one of three players to eagle No. 14 to follow his first-round 73 with a 67 Friday.
Jimenez and Anders Hansen also shot threes on that par five.
Hansen, Retief Goosen and Justin Rose are 2 under, while British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen battled for a 1-over 73 after struggling with a suspected virus and receiving treatment for dehydration. He is level par and 12 shots off Westwood at the halfway mark.
132 - Lee Westwood (ENG) 68-64
135 - Ross Fisher (ENG) 67-68
138 - Padraig Harrington (IRL) 66-72, Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP) 69-69, Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 71-67
139 - Ernie Els 71-68
140 - Robert Allenby (AUS) 70-70, Tim Clark 73-67
142 - Retief Goosen 72-70, Anders Hansen (DEN) 72-70, Justin Rose (ENG) 70-72
144 - Louis Oosthuizen 71-73