Toby Tree twice reeled off three birdies in succession on Thursday on his way to a second-round five-under-par 67 and into a three-way share of the lead of the R700,000 Sun Fish River Sun Challenge at the Fish River Sun Hotel and Country Club.
He found his putting touch on the back nine, making five birdies and a bogey on the homeward stretch as he eased to the top of the leaderboard together with Christiaan Bezuidenhout and first-round leader Jason Viljoen.
‘It was a good round today,’ said Tree. ‘My putter got hot on the back nine. But I’ve made some of the worst drops this week I’ve ever seen. So it was a bit of up and down. I didn’t really get going till the ninth today. I was one under for the tournament, and then I made six birdies in the next eight holes.’
Having got his round going with an eagle-three on the fifth, he could have gone really low, but bogeys on six and eight killed off that early momentum – until the run of birdies. ‘Then I made another silly drop on the par-five 17th when I three-putted from 10 feet,’ he said, ‘but five-under in the wind is a good score.’
Bezuidenhout was sailing along serenely at nine-under for the tournament until he reached the seven – his 16th after he had started on 10. He made a triple-bogey seven there to slip back into Tree’s clutches. “I hit my tee shot behind the 150-metre distance marker,” he said, “and they’re immovable obstructions. I tried to punch my second low beneath it, and my ball hit it and rebounded into the thick bush.”
For Viljoen, who is fresh off his triumph in the Big Easy Tour Championship, it was a day which confirmed that he belongs on the Sunshine Tour. ‘It was a slow start, maybe a bit of nerves,’ he said. ‘I had to get some stuff out of the system on the first couple of holes, and after that, just keep on playing the way I have been.’
He is going to put it all on the line in the final round. ‘Tomorrow, I’m just going to come out here and make as many birdies as I can,’ he said.
That’s the kind of thing that Tree will want to do, after being in contention in the last two tournaments and falling away somewhat. ‘The last round last week was poor,’ he said. ‘I got off to a slow start and I struggled to get motivated, and I finished poorly. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow to see if I can get a win.’