Spaniard Adrian Otaegui took advantage of the friendlier conditions available at the start of the second round of the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club on Friday, shooting a superb eight-under-par 62 to claim a two-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the co-sanctioned tournament.
Otaegui was in the first three-ball off at 6.40am and he set the tone for his round with birdies on the par-four second and third holes. Five birdies in a row from the eighth saw him surge up the leaderboard and he then made twos at both of the par-threes on the back nine, before bogeying the last to finish on 11-under for the tournament.
“We were first to tee off this morning and the conditions were perfect. I like playing that early and I did really well. I made a lot of birdies and I’m happy with my round. It was a good round from the beginning.
“The greens were perfect, because we opened the course. They were good yesterday, but when you play first the course is in very good condition and you can take advantage,” Otaegui said after his best round on the European Tour.
South African Merrick Bremner is two shots back at nine-under-par after a typically attacking approach brought him a four-under-par 66. He started his round at the 10th hole but was level-par for the day after a bogey on the first, but four birdies would come in his last six holes to leave him alone in second place.
While joint overnight leader Morten Orum Madsen would come undone with two double-bogeys in his first four holes and successive bogeys around the turn, leaving him six shots off the pace on five-under, David Horsey kept himself in strong contention.
The Englishman started on the 10th and put a double-bogey on the fourth behind him as he collected two birdies coming in to finish on eight-under, in a tie for third with South Africans Keith Horne and Trevor Fisher Junior, and Italian Edoardo Molinari.
Sunshine Tour Order of Merit leader Andy Sullivan had an icky round of 71 to miss the cut, while it also all went wrong for Lindani Ndwandwe, who posted a promising 68 in the first round before a run of five successive bogeys from the third hole saw him shoot 79 on Friday and also miss the cut.
The in-form Wallie Coetsee had steadily climbed the leaderboard with four birdies as he stood on the 18th tee tied with Bremner on nine-under, but then suffered a major blow as his tee-shot found one of the numerous bunkers on a hole that is usually a par-five but is a par-four in this tournament.
The lapse led to a double-bogey which pushed Coetsee back down to seven-under, in a tie for seventh with fellow South Africans Dean Burmester and George Coetzee.
Conditions were definitely trickier on the second day at Pretoria Country Club, with sunny and warm conditions speeding up the greens and a capricious breeze making club selection tricky.
“I found the wind quite tricky. It was really swirling in completely opposite directions and I got a lot of clubs wrong compared to yesterday. You’re trying to make birdies with wedges in your hand and you’re hitting it five or 10 metres short because the wind changes on you. That can get quite frustrating. I think the wind was the biggest factor in why the scores weren’t that low,” Horne said after his 67.
Otaegui, who learnt the game at the same Real Golf Club de San Sebastian as former Ryder Cup captain Jose-Maria Olazabal, who is also his mentor, said Pretoria Country Club suited him.
“I like these type of courses that are old-style and have trees, so that you have to place the ball. You don’t need to hit it far, but rather put it in a place where you can attack the pins. Even if I missed a few tee shots today I hit some good irons and gave myself birdie chances,” the 22-year-old said.
He may be on top of the leaderboard at the moment, but Otaegui is not getting ahead of himself as he eyes his first top-three finish on the European Tour.
“I’m happy, but we still have a lot of way to go. It’s just 50% of the tournament and so many things can happen. I just have to be patient tomorrow. Let’s see if I’ve learnt something from these last two rounds,” he said.
Molinari, a two-time European Tour winner and a former Ryder Cup player, was slow out of the gate as he started on the 10th, only making his first birdie on the 18th hole. But he also picked up shots on the first and on his last two holes to put himself amongst the leaders.