South Africa’s Hennie du Plessis roared hard in the second round of the Nedbank Challenge tournament at Sun City on Friday, but in the end it was cucumber-cool Yank Max Homa and Frenchman Matthieu Pavon who ended the day as the leaders in the prestigious Pilanesberg -golf spectacle.
Earlier this week, Du Plessis was included in the Sonstadstryd’s selection field at the last minute and over the first two days, he properly seized his chances to blow in the necks of the leaders at the halfway mark.
The 27-year-old player from the Sesambos golf club along the Limpopo River in Swartwater holds joint sixth position in the field of 66 players with a total of 137 (-7).
Du Plessis, who recorded a score of 67 (-5) on Friday, and Englishman Richie Ramsay (69) are just three strokes behind Homa and Pavon.
The highlight of Du Plessis’ brilliant performance was the eagle three he scored on the par five ninth hole after he hit the ball with his second shot less than two meters from the tin and successfully rolled in the putt.
Du Plessis then scored three birdies over six holes from the tenth to share the lead at one stage.
A knock at the sixteenth stopped Du Plessis’ momentum, but he can rightly be proud of his performance.
So did Homa, who dished out flawless play on the first two days to put his name at the top of the leaderboard.
“I am pleasantly surprised and grateful. My body feels like a golfer’s again for once and I’m happy that I’m playing well,” Homa said afterwards. “If you fly twenty hours to play somewhere, you hope you play well. So I’m delighted to be playing well and to be in a solid position.”
The world’s no. 8-player has not conceded any shots on par and could have been ahead on his own if he had a little luck on the greens.
Quite a few putts scraped past the can, but this did not faze Homa and he remained dead calm in the sweltering hot weather conditions that made the sweat drip.
Homa ended up scoring 68 (-4) after his 66 on Thursday.
Pavon started on Friday with four birdies over the first nine after which he took the lead at the tenth hole after an eagle three. The 31-year-old Frenchman made his fifth birdie of the day at the fourteenth only to drop a shot at the fifteenth and drop to -6 for the day and -10 for the tournament.
“I am very satisfied with my game over the first two days. I played particularly well from the baseline and also gave myself a lot of chances on the greens. I’m very happy,” Pavon said.
The two leaders are followed by Dan Bradbury (69), who is only one stroke behind on a total of 135 (-9).
Had it not been for a bogey at the eighteenth hole, the Englishman could have found himself in the lead with Homa and Pavon.
Nicolai Hojgaard and Thorbjorn Olesen, both from Denmark, are joint fourth at 136 (-8) after shooting 70 and 66 respectively over the second eighteen holes.
Two big guns came to the fore on Friday and are suddenly back in the race for glory.
The defending champion, Tomny Fleetwood, is only four shots behind at -6 after a very good 67 on Friday. The Yank Justin Thomas is also at -6 after he showed with a great 66 why he is a double major champion.
The best placed SA participants are Branden Grace who, next to Du Plessis, is at -2 and Thriston Lawrence at equal number 144.
Louis de Jager (+3), Zander Lombard (+4) and Ockie Strydom (+5) will want to perform better this weekend than the first two days.
*In the US PGA Series, Swede Alex Noren is still the leader at the halfway mark of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
Noren finished the second round of the tournament in Southampton in a score of 66 (-5) and leads by two shots on a total of 127 (-15).
Yanks Ryan Moore (64) and Ryan Brehm (65) share second place with Japan’s Satoshi Radaira (65) at 129 (-13).
The South Africans Dylan Frettelli (73) and MJ Daffue (72) did not survive the cut-off at 142.
*In Phoenix, Arizona, Ernie Els dropped to seventh place after two rounds of the Charles Schwab Seniors Tournament. The 54-year-old Els played 70 shots on Friday after being on fire in Thursday’s first round and took the lead with a score of 63.
The new leaders are Marco Dawson (64) and New Zealand’s Stephen Aljer (64) who, on a total of 131 (-12), enjoy a one-shot lead in the Champions Series’ final tournament of the season.
Retief Goosen (70) is very firmly placed at -6 and his chances of winning cannot be ignored.
*In the American LPGA series, the Dane Emily Kristine Pedersen sets the pace after two rounds of the Annika tournament.
Pedersen finished her second round in 67 (-5) for a total of 132 (-12) and a two-shot lead at the Pelican Course in Belleair, Florida.
Minami Katsu of Japan (69 for -10) and Thailand’s Thidapa Suwanapura (67 for -9) lie second and third respectively.
Ashleigh Buhai (70 for -2) qualified for the last two rounds, but her SA compatriot Paula Reto (71) missed the cut by one shot at 144 (par) after scoring a bogey on her last hole .
Additional source: PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, DP World Tour.