SUN CITY, South Africa: Frenchman Victor Dubuisson emerged from a lightning delay to take a two-shot halfway lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in South Africa on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Dubuisson, 27, had just birdied the 15th to move three strokes ahead of the field at seven-under when play was halted.
The two-time European Tour winner returned from the two-and-a-half hour stoppage to par both his 16th and 17th holes, but dropped a shot at the last in an eventual two-under-par 70 for a six-under total on the Gary Player-designed course.
“The driver here is the key if you want to play well, and yeah, today I didn’t miss many fairways, maybe one or two, and I played very solidly in the wind,” he said.
“I came here this week 73rd on the Race to Dubai so the goal this week first (is) to win and also to get myself in the top 60 because it’s been five years in a row that I’ve played the Dubai final.”
Two players—South African Darren Fichardt (69) and England’s Lee Westwood (70) — share second place on four-under.
Westwood superbly put himself in the frame for a first victory in over two years by recording a second straight score of 70.
The 44-year-old Englishman’s round included six birdies and four bogeys on a course where he has won twice before.
Westwood won a second of three Sunshine Tour titles on the Sun City course with his runaway eight-shot success at the 2010 Nedbank Golf Challenge, while he successfully defended his title a year later.
And the former world number one is clearly relishing thoughts of a third Nedbank title, which would be his 24th European Tour victory and a 44th win worldwide.
“Experience is everything around this golf course as there’s some pins that you just can’t go at and you have to play away from,” he said.
“When you miss them, you realise you’ve made a mistake with your course management.
“I’ve been coming here since 1998 and played it a lot and been successful around the course so the harder the conditions, the better it will be for me over the course of the week.”
Fichardt makes most of surprise appearance
Fichardt, 42, earlier this year captured a fifth Tour success with victory in the Joburg Open and all but three of Pretoria-born golfer’s 20 career wins have come in Africa.
His second round included four birdies and just one dropped shot.
Fichardt was the very last player into the field after only learning on the eve of the event he would be teeing-up in the $7.5 million tournament thanks to withdrawals.
“I was probably the most bitter person in South Africa on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, because I really, really am playing well and it was just a shame I wasn’t getting into these events,” he said.
“So unfortunately for Matthew Southgate and Anthony Wall, but fortunate for me, they had to pull out, and it gave me an opportunity to give it a crack.
“That’s just how the game goes. I have an opportunity to play this tournament, and I love this track. My game is really where I want it to be.”
Current European number one Tommy Fleetwood again failed to make an impression, adding a two-over-par 74 to his opening 73 to be just inside the top 40 at three-over par.
Fleetwood’s second round featured three birdies but was marred by five bogeys as he seeks to take full advantage of the absence of Justin Rose, his nearest Race to Dubai rival.
The Englishman is guaranteed to win the Race to Dubai with victory in South Africa, but is now nine strokes off the lead.
Illness forced American Peter Uihlein to withdraw ahead of the second round, and at 56th in the Race to Dubai, the 28-year-old could miss out on qualifying among the top 60 for next week’s season finale.
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Nedbank Challenge scores
Leading second-round scores from the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, South Africa on Saturday (par 72, GBR/IRL unless stated):
138 – Victor Dubuisson (FRA) 68-70
140 – Darren Fichardt (RSA) 71-69, Lee Westwood 70-70
141 – Tyrrell Hatton 71-70, Ross Fisher 70-71, Alex Noren (SWE) 69-72, Scott Jamieson 68-73
142 – Martin Kaymer (GER) 73-69, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 69-73
143 – Shane Lowry 72-71, Richie Ramsay 73-70, Joost Luiten (NED) 71-72, Benjamin Hebert (FRA) 74-69, Paul Waring 70-73, Branden Grace (RSA) 68-75, Julian Suri (USA) 68-75
144 – David Horsey 73-71, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 71-73, Alexander Bjork (SWE) 71-73, Lee Slattery 70-74, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 70-74, Graeme Storm 68-75, Bernd Weisberger (AUT) 67-77
145 – David Drysdale 72-73, Ryan Fox (NZL) 71-74, Callum Shinkwin 70-75, Gregory Bourdy (FRA) 75-70, Nacho Elvira (ESP) 70-75, Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 69-76
146 – Padraig Harrington 74-72, Ian Poulter 74-72
147 – Tommy Fleetwood 73-74
150 – Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP) 72-78
152 – Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 79-73