It was probably appropriate that England’s Graeme Storm held the second-round lead on Friday as play was suspended because of the threat of lightning in the BMW SA Open proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, but there were other things on fans’ minds.
There was the charge up the leaderboard of South African duo Trevor Fisher Jnr, there was the hole-in-one by Jaco van Zyl which saw him win a R2-million BMW i8, there was breath being held to see if player-host Ernie Els would make the cut, and there was the spectacular charge by world number two Rory McIlroy.
The fans have come out in their thousands to watch the Northern Irishman, and he delivered a breath-taking display between the eighth and the 15th holes, making six birdies and an eagle as he muscled his way towards the head of the field. That stretch saw him make eight consecutive one-putts, and he seemed destined to go into the weekend in the lead.
But a pair of bogeys on 17 and 18 saw him drop to nine-under for the tournament, three off the pace.
And as much as that was disappointing, the fans will be holding their collective breaths overnight as McIlroy gets a tweak to his back seen to. ‘I actually thought about pulling out before even teeing off today,’ he said. ‘I tweaked my back somehow and the first few shots today weren’t very comfortable and it still isn’t really comfortable. I can’t really take a deep breath because I’ve done something to my upper back. I’m going to go get some treatment now. Considering that, I played well, stuck at it and hopefully I can feel better tomorrow.
‘I don’t want to withdraw, it would let a lot of people down so that’s why I kept going today. As I said, I’m going to get some physio now and hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow.’
Van Zyl aced the long 204-metre par-three on his way to a brilliant seven-under-par 65, a round which vaulted him up the leaderboard. He reached halfway at eight-under, four off the pace set by England’s Graeme Storm.
That ‘perfect fluke’, as it is somewhat disrespectfully known, saw him win a R2-million BMW i8 – a welcome change of fortunes for a man who has made 16 aces in his tournament career, the last of which came in the Rio Olympic Games last year.
‘That’s the first time I’ve ever won anything for a hole-in-one,’ he said, ‘and even when I made it, I wasn’t sure whether the car was only up for grabs in the final round, or just over the weekend. It wasn’t until I got onto the green that I was told I’d got the car.’
Kruger had a round of great putting to tank for ending up on 10-under, two back: ‘I just made the putts. I think I made 24 putts but I only hit four fairways so it was amazing,’ he said. ‘I like it when the greens are a bit faster so you don’t really have to hit them. You can literally just have sight of the line going in.’
Fisher also putted well, but he felt he needed to do better with other parts of his game. ‘I just don’t think I found enough fairways today which is not good,’ he said. ‘So, I managed to scramble a bit today and hopefully over the weekend I can just find more fairways and give myself more chances.’
Play will resume at 7.15am on Saturday, and the cut will be made once the second round is complete.
-12 – Graeme Storm 69 63
-10 – Peter Uihlein 70 64, Jbe’ Kruger 67 67, Trevor Fisher Jnr 66 68
-9 – Laurie Canter 69 66, Jordan L Smith 67 68, Keith Horne 66 69, Rory McIlroy 67 68, David Drysdale 70 65
-8 – Jaco Van Zyl 71 65