Despite battling a badly bruised toe and still trying to rediscover his perfect swing, Schwartzel was able to make five birdies and an eagle, offsetting four bogeys, as he posted a 69 that took him to seven-under-par for the tournament, in second place behind Sullivan.
The Englishman, the joint leader overnight, went out from the 10th hole in three-under 33, but would make bogeys at the par-four fifth and seventh holes, before picking up a shot at the par-five eighth to finish with a 70 and eight-under-par overall.
Schwartzel also started on the 10th and had grafted through his round, playing his first 15 holes in one-over-par. But a spectacular birdie-eagle-birdie finish allowed the South African to make a dramatic surge up the leaderboard.
“I was just missing fairways by a little bit, or when I finally hit a good shot I would three-putt, so nothing was really going for me. But any time you finish like that, it turns your day into a much better one and nobody was more surprised than me!” Schwartzel said after his round.
Schwartzel has not had a top-10 finish on the European Tour since August’s Bridgestone Invitational WGC event and has been battling much-publicised swing problems. But on Friday his biggest wish would have been for carts to be allowed so he wouldn’t have to walk between holes after bashing his toe on some househould furniture in the build-up to the tournament.
“I’m trying to get an old feeling back in my swing and it’s the same with the putter, I’ve spent quite a few hours on the practice green. I’m just trying to remember what I used to do, even going as far back as my junior days, just trying to be more consistent.
“But my toe was worse today. There’s no real pain when I hit the ball, it’s just the walking that is very painful. But I’m not playing in pain otherwise I would withdraw,” Schwartzel said.
While South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer merely had to deal with stabbing pains in his toe, five-time champion and tournament host Ernie Els must have felt like Glendower had kneed him in the groin as he crashed down the leaderboard with a staggering bogey, triple-bogey, triple-bogey sequence from the eighth hole.
But Els has not won 67 professional tournaments and earned the equivalent of nearly a billion rand in prizemoney by being mentally fragile and he fought his way back with successive birdies on 13 and 14, before parring his way in for a 77. The host will nevertheless be around for the weekend and is only eight shots behind Sullivan on level-par for the tournament.
Jbe’ Kruger, who was tied for the lead with Sullivan overnight, had a disastrous day with an 80 and just scraped into the weekend on the cut-mark of two-over.
JJ Senekal was the other golfer to produce a top-class round on Friday, shooting a 67 to climb into a share of third with Denmark’s Lasse Jensen and fellow South African Colin Nel on six-under.
Sullivan, a jovial 28-year-old from Nuneaton, once again brought an aggressive approach to the tight parklands course and, apart from a wobble coming in, it paid off.
“The course was a bit tougher today but I’m happy with my round, I actually probably played a bit better today. The rough is brutal but yesterday I got away with it, while today I was punished a couple of times. But I attacked just as much,” Sullivan said.