Englishman Matt Ford was able to make the Africa Open lead his own with a six-under-par 66 in the second round at East London Golf Club on Friday, but four South Africans made significant progress up the leaderboard to keep local hopes alive.
Ford is on 11-under-par at the midway stage, one stroke ahead of Spaniard Edoardo de la Riva, while Jaco van Zyl, who continues to make an impressive comeback from surgery on both knees last year, and Erik van Rooyen are leading the South African charge on eight-under-par, alongside Frenchman Gregory Havret.
The 36-year-old Ford started on the first tee at 7.05am when conditions were relatively calm compared to the blustery first day, and he was able to make four birdies on his first seven holes. His momentum was temporarily halted with a bogey on the ninth after he carted his tee-shot into the thick coastal bush, but he made up for that with a birdie on 10 and an eagle-two on the 12th hole.
“I played nicely today, I’m very happy. It’s been two good rounds and hopefully there are two to come. I gave myself plenty of opportunities and was inside 15 feet 11 times. I was just trying to hit good shots and take advantage of the slightly easier conditions,” Ford said.
Van Zyl’s knees are not only holding up well but, more importantly, his putter is too after he struggled last weekend at the Joburg Open, his final-round 66 including 33 shots with the short stick.
“I’m probably at about 70% of how well I can drive, but now I’m making the putts. I had 27 yesterday and 25 today. Yesterday was really tough though and I was very chuffed I managed to shoot two-under. It was a lot easier this morning, it was totally different today, a lot of the holes were into a little breeze but there were still quite a few holes to capitalise on,” Van Zyl said after his round that included five birdies, an eagle and just one bogey.
Former world top-10 golfer David Howell is still in contention on seven-under-par, alongside fellow Englishman John Parry, South Africans Neil Schietekat and Trevor Fisher Junior, Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer and Mark Tullo of Chile.
Van Rooyen started on the ninth hole and picked up two birdies on the back nine before bogeying the par-five first. But the 25-year-old who played college golf in the United States, then posted a band of birdies on his scorecard – five in the next six holes – to roar up the leaderboard.
Van Zyl and his fellow South African mates have a proud record to maintain in the Africa Open, with a foreigner not managing to win the title yet after seven editions of the tournament.
“I’ve got to take it one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself. But if I give myself as many opportunities as I can to win, then it has to happen some time. But you’ve obviously got to play nicely and being in contention brings different pressures and expectations. But life will become a lot easier once I get a co-sanctioned win under the belt,” Van Zyl said.