On a day on which the Gary Player Country Club bared its teeth, Oliver Bekker was the only player who seemed to have its measure on Friday as he carded a five-under-par 67 to move into a share of the 36-hole lead of the Sun City Challenge.
First round leader Shaun Norris signed for a two-over-par 74 to slip into a share of the lead with Bekker at three-under 141 ahead of the cut which fell at six-over-par as only seven players finished up under par after two rounds.
‘I hit it well today,’ he said. ‘You have to hit it well around here, I gave myself a lot of chances, and I made some good putts between three and 10 feet, and that just kept the momentum going.’
Bekker’s round was the best of the day, and Ockie Strydom managed to record a four-under 68, thanks in large part to an eagle three on the ninth, while Portugal’s Antonio Rosado came home in three-under 69 on a day during which there were 10 scores of 10-over-par and worse.
Bekker started really well, with three birdies in his first four holes, and then dropped a shot on the sixth. But he negated that drop with a birdie on the iconic ninth to turn in three-under 33. He held things together after then turn, picking up another stroke when he made birdie on 13. Another bogey on 15 slowed him briefly, but he picked up consecutive birdies on the tough 17th and the closing 18th.
‘On the 18th, I chipped it in, but I did tell my caddie that I was going to do that,’ Bekker laughed.
What seemed to be causing problems for most of the players was that the greens were hard and fast. ‘They’re very tricky,’ said Bekker. ‘The greens are small and the pins were in some good places. I managed to leave myself in the right spots to have makeable putts. That’s all you can do out there.
‘The last couple of weeks, I have been hitting my irons poorly. I worked a bit on the range for the last couple of days and found a little something. I hit some really good ion shots today, and I hit it inside four feet about four times. That makes it a lot easier.’
With the greens unlikely to get any softer or slower in the final round, Bekker will have to draw on that accuracy again if he is to draw clear of the rest of the field.
141 – Shaun Norris 67 74, Oliver Bekker 74 67
142 – Theunis Spangenberg 69 73, Ockie Strydom 74 68
143 – Werner van Niekerk 71 72, Jbe’ Kruger 68 75, JC Ritchie 72 71
145 – Antonio Rosado 76 69, Vaughn Groenewald 69 76, Erik van Rooyen 71 74