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Second round 64 gives Nienaber a share of the lead

The South African Stroke Play saw a fantastically high standard of golf as no fewer than 66 players went under par during Wednesday’s second round at Pecanwood Golf and Country Club, resulting in a cut of 65 and ties falling at two-under 142.

World No10 Oliver Gillberg from Sweden and South Africa’s No2 ranked Wilco Nienaber proved the most inspired men in the field, both posting excellent scores to share the lead at 15-under 129.

However, eight players are within five shots of their target, led by KwaZulu-Natal’s Matt Saulez.

Gillberg accrued 10 birdies as he navigated the Jack Nicklaus-designed championship layout in 62 strokes. ‘I’m really happy with that score, despite the last two holes,’ said the Swedish national squad player. ‘The birdie putt at 17 pulled up an inch from the hole and the one at 18 hung on the edge, but just wouldn’t drop. It was disappointing, but you just have to move on.

‘I’m really pleased to be in a strong position, because it was quite a job to adjust to the altitude when we first got to Pecanwood. The ball travels at least a club and a half further, so we spent a lot of time with the Trackman on the driving range to get our distances right.

‘I still didn’t feel too confident hitting the driver and the irons in the first round, but today I felt really good and I hit the ball well. It’s a great course and I’m really starting to enjoy myself.’

Nienaber, looking to add another victory to the 12 titles he has accrued since the beginning of 2017, started on the back nine. He put together nine birdies for a 64, but was left rueing a bogey finish.

‘I hit a good drive, but a really poor approach and I finished in the rough,’ said the 17-year-old GolfRSA national squad player. ‘I had a very weird lie; the ball wasn’t plugged, but it was as if the grass had sucked it in and I didn’t come out well with the chip. ‘It’s never nice to finish with a bogey; it kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but tomorrow is another day.’

One of the longest hitters in the field, the Bloemfontein golfer booms his drive around 315 metres and his added length is a plus factor at the heavily-bunkered layout.

‘My distance off the tee is definitely to my advantage, because I’m able to avoid all the bunkers and leave myself a short or wedge in,’ said Nienaber.

Saulez looked unlikely to be anywhere near the top of the leaderboard after four holes, but he picked up four shots in three holes when he followed birdies at five and six with an eagle three at seven.

Four more gains on his back nine saw the Durban Country Club golfer home in 64 strokes and he will start the final round two off the pace.

‘The birdies gave me some nice momentum after I dropped a shot at the third,’ said Saulez, another member of the GolfRSA National Squad and currently fourth in the Open Amateur rankings.

‘I hit a good drive but I found the bunker left. I took a three-wood and gave it some gas and finished three feet from the hole. All my birdies were inside six feet, so I hit the ball really well, especially my approach shots. The longest putt I had was at 18, where I holed a 12-footer for birdie.

‘It’s great to be near the top at the halfway mark. Anytime you play with top golfers, you raise your game, so I’m really looking forward to playing with Wilco and Oliver.’

Overnight leader Keaton Slatter returned a 68 to finish three shots back, while Robin Dawson from Ireland – the runner-up last year – played his way into contention with a 65. The Irishman shares fifth with South African pair Louis Albertse and James du Preez and Swede Ludwig Aberg.

Picture of Nienaber courtesy of Ernest Blignault

Second Round Scores
All competitors SA unless otherwise specified:
129 – Oliver Gillberg SWE 67 62; Wilco Nienaber 65 64
131 – Matt Saulez 67 64
132 – Keaton Slatter 64 68
133 – Louis Albertse 66 67; James du Preez 65 68; Ludwig Aberg SWE 65 68; Robin Dawson IRL 68 65
134 – Euan Walker GBR 70 64; Calum Fyfe SCO 67 67
135 – Ryan van Velzen 66 69
136 – Christiaan Burke 70 66; Erhard Lambrechts 69 67
137 – Sam Locke SCO 69 68; Gustav Andersson SWE 67 70; Edgar Catherine FRA 67 70; Clayton Mansfield 70 67; Mark Power IRL 70 67; David Mcintyre 69 68; Yashas Chandra IND 72 65
138 – Ruan Botha 67 71; Darren Howie SCO 69 69; Pierre Pineau FRA 68 70; Clément Charmasson FRA 69 69; Yurav Premlall 69 69; Martin Vorster 68 70; Dylan Kok 69 69
139 – Stals Swart 67 72; Ruhan van Dijk 69 70; Keanu Pestana 74 65; David Nyfjall SWE 70 69; Luca Filippi 71 68; Jordan Burnand 70 69; Deon Germishuys 71 68; Theunie Bezuidenhout 67 72; Alex Gleeson IRL 72 67; Cameron Moralee 74 65; Malcolm Mitchell 70 69; Jayden Schaper 69 70
140 – Cole Stevens 69 71; Charles Larcelet FRA 70 70; Matthew Hands 68 72; Nikhil Gopal 70 70; Hayden Griffiths 71 69; Frédéric LaCroix FRA 71 69; Nicholaus Frade 74 66; Jonathan Yates IRL 71 69; Loris Schuepbach SUI 68 72
141 – Otto van Buynder 69 72; Keegan Mclachlan 68 73; Victor Veyret FRA 71 70; Loic Ettlin SUI 72 69; Jan-louis Nel 68 73; Keelan van Wyk 72 69; Andre van Heerden (Jnr) 70 71; Jeremy Freiburghaus SUI 68 73; Coalan Rafferty IRL 70 71; David Langley GBR 70 71
142 – Oliver Goldhill 69 73; Alan Lones 74 68; Jack Gaunt ENG 71 71; Carlos Laranja 72 70; Neal Woernhard SUI 72 70; Nicola Gerhardsen 67 75; Christian Basson 65 77