Home favourite Schwartzel joins Crespi in Glendower lead

Bright start sees former Masters champion reel in Italian pacesetter in South African Open

Charl Schwartzel is joint leader of the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images)

Charl Schwartzel is joint leader of the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images)

Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 18:00

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel held a share of the lead at the midway point of the South African Open thanks to a blistering front nine in his second round.

Tournament favourite Schwartzel recorded five birdies and an eagle to reach the turn in seven under par and power up the leaderboard after going out as one of the latter starters.

He could not continue that stunning form on the back nine, with three successive birdies from the 14th being cancelled out by bogeys on the 10th, 13th and 17th as he came back in par, but his 65 was still enough to see him end the day in joint top spot on 12 under alongside Marco Crespi.

Newcastle (Co Down) professional Simon Thornton is the only Irish man still involved after squeezing through on two under with a level par 72 that came courtesy of late birdies at six and eight .

Seven Irish started in total, but Gareth Maybin (level par), Peter Lawrie (one over), Damien McGrane, Michael Hoey (both three over), Paul McGinley and amateur Justin Brink (both seven over) could not make the weekend.

“It was just one of those nines where most things go right,” Schwartzel said of his start today. “I holed some nice putts and played some great shots to turn in seven under. It looked like it could be a really low one at one stage.

“It’s nice to turn in a low nine and get yourself quickly up the board. I got a bit derailed by a short putt on 10. It sort of put the brakes on a little bit. Who knows what I would have been on (now) if that went in?,” the South African added on www.europeantour.com.

The other player sharing the lead after day two was Crespi, who followed up his 65 on the first day with a 67 on Friday at Glendower Golf Club .

The 35-year-old Italian, who has only had his European Tour card seven days after finishing third at the Qualifying School at PGA Golf Catalunya last week, carded six birdies — four of which came on the front nine — and just the one bogey.

One shot back in the first event of the 2014 Race to Dubai was Morten Orum Madsen, whose impressive six-under-par 66 on Friday left the Dane 11 under.

It would have been even better for Madsen but for a bogey four on the penultimate hole — his only dropped shot of the day. Christiaan Basson (68) was fourth on 10 under while his South African compatriot Jbe Kruger (70) was nine under, alongside England’s James Morrison (66).

Morrison’s countrymen Tom Lewis (68) and Matthew Nixon — the overnight leader — were in a five-way share for seventh place on eight under, the other players being Ulrich Van den Berg (66), James Kamte (67) and Alejandro Canizares (67).

Nixon eagled the penultimate hole on Thursday to finish on 64 and claim a one-shot lead over Crespi and Kruger at the end of day one, but he was unable to build on that superb start as he finished level-par for the second day.

Nixon picked up birdies on the eighth, 13th and 15th, but a bogey on the first and a double-bogey on the par-four 10th pegged him back as he carded a 72.

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