Schwartzel secures share of lead in South Africa
Gauteny, South Africa (SportsNetwork.com) - Hometown favorite Charl Schwartzel shot 7-under-par 65 on Friday to grab a share of the lead at the halfway point of the South African Open Championship.
Schwartzel, the highest-ranked player in the field at world No. 22, is tied with Marco Crespi at 12-under 132. Crespi, a European Tour rookie, has gone 65-67 through two rounds of this season-opening event.
Morten Orum Madsen shot 66 to move into solo third at 11-under 133, one stroke ahead of Christiaan Basson, who carded a 68 during his second round at Glendower Golf Club to grab fourth place.
Jbe' Kruger (70) and James Morrison (66) are tied for fifth at 9-under, while overnight leader Matthew Nixon (72), Tom Lewis (68), Alejandro Canizares (67), James Kamte (67) and Ulrich Van den Berg (66) share seventh at minus-8.
Retief Goosen, a two-time winner of this event, shot 71 and dropped into a tie for 12th with six others at 7-under.
Crespi, who recently made it through Qualifying School for the first time in 11 attempts, mixed six birdies and a bogey on Friday. The 35-year-old highlighted his round with a deft chip within a foot at the 16th, where he tapped in for his final birdie of the day to reach 12-under.
"I was expecting a good tournament because I was playing well," said Crespi. "Obviously not this big, but I am pretty confident about the weekend. I'll just try to remain calm and play my game my way."
Madsen tallied seven birdies to briefly join the clubhouse leader Crespi, but he missed the green at the par-3 17th, failed to get up-and-down and dropped to 11-under with a bogey.
Schwartzel got off to a blazing start, opening with four birdies over his first five holes, then adding an eagle at the par-5 eighth and a birdie at the next to turn in 29.
"It was just one of those nines where most things go right," he said. "I made some really good iron shots, put myself in play, and the greens are just in such fantastic condition that if you get the line right they go in, and that was pretty much the case."
The 2011 Masters champion was treated to an inconsistent inward stretch, however, as he tripped to bogeys at Nos. 10 and 13 before righting himself with three straight birdies from the 14th. The birdie hat trick pushed Schwartzel ahead of Crespi at minus-13, but another bogey at the 17th ensured a tie at the top entering the weekend.
"I got a bit derailed by a short putt on 10," Schwartzel continued. "Actually a good putt but, late on the afternoon on the greens with all the guys stepping round the hole, I managed to hit a little footprint and it came back at me. It sort of put the brakes on a little bit. Who knows what I would have been on (now) if that went in?"
NOTES: Schwartzel, an eight-time European Tour winner, is looking for his first victory at this event ... South Africans have won this tournament 11 of the last 13 years ... The event is co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour ... Next to the British Open, this is the oldest national championship ... The cut line fell at 2-under-par 142, with 66 players moving on to the third round ... Last year's champion Henrik Stenson is not in the field this week. He won both the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup and the European Tour's Race to Dubai in 2013.
11/22 12:00:39 ET