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Friday 18 January 2019

Golf: Charl charge to share lead

Defending champ hits Joburg summit after super 61

CHARL SCHWARTZEL delivered a magical 10-under-par round of 61 on a rain-affected day two of the Joburg Open to storm into a share of the lead at the halfway stage.



The defending champion kept all errors off the card as he notched up 10 birdies to join compatriot Garth Mulroy and Englishman Jamie Elson on 13 under at the top of the leaderboard, one shot ahead of the field.

The pair both shot seven-under 64s today on the tougher east course of the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, while Schwartzel's effort came on the west. This week's co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event is being played over the two courses on the first two days – the rounds are divided between the par-71 east and west courses, before the cut is made and the weekend played on the east side.

Heavy rain around the area, though, meant play had to be suspended for close to three hours, with more than 25 players now set to return tomorrow morning to complete their rounds after organisers called off play at 6.50pm local time.

Heading the chasing pack are a trio of South Africans, amongst them James Kingston, whose 62 on the west course was the second lowest round of the day. Also on 12 under are joint-round one leader Tyrone Mordt (68) and Thomas Aiken (66) – the pair playing on the east and west respectively. Two more locals were on 11 under, Branden Grace shot a 68 on the east, and Martin Maritz, the other player to lead after the first day, lacked consistency as he ended the easier of the courses with a 69.

Dungannon's Darren Clarke carded a three-under 68 today to move to four under overall, the same as former champion Richard Sterne (70). They are expected to make the cut when it is drawn today, but will find difficulty in catching the leaders. Schwartzel, whose 61 would have beaten the previous 62 course record had the rules this week not been lift, clean and place – implemented due to the wet conditions in Johannesburg.

He was pleased with his round, which saw him end the first nine in 31 and then breeze his way to 30 on the way home, saying: “I think 61 is my lowest score in a tournament. “I've shot 60s before, quite a few, but those were in practice rounds.” Reflecting on 18 holes, the 26-year-old, a five-time winner on the European Tour, added: “It was a fantastic round today. I played quite a lot better than yesterday.

“I hit some great tee shots and iron shots and just about used every opportunity that I had on the greens. “I putted well too, so it was good.”

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