Clouds move in over BMW SA Open

Graeme Storm fired a course record nine-under-par 63 to hit the front at Glendower Golf Club, but neither the Englishman’s feat nor the cut worries of South Africa’s two top ranked amateurs ranked high on the minds of the golf fans after the second round of the BMW SA Open proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni was suspended on Friday.

The supporters had come out in their droves to watch Rory McIlroy and the world number two did not disappoint, but a niggling back injury could spell trouble.

Storm will sleep on a two shot lead over South African pair Jbe’ Kruger and Trevor Fisher Jnr and American Peter Uhlein. Marco Steyn and Kyle McClatchie will have to wait out the completion of the second round on Saturday morning to see if they will challenge for the Freddie Tait Trophy. And all the McIlroy fans will be holding their collective breaths in the hopes that he doesn’t withdraw from the weekend action.

The Northern Irishman was three over through four holes, but an eagle three at the par five eighth hole set him on a purple patch that saw him muscled his way towards Storm.

Using new clubs after Nike stopped producing equipment, McIlroy showed in the first round that the driver was working just fine with his first drive rocketing a massive 392 yards. On day two, it was the putter’s turn and the results have been equally impressive.

In a stretch of eight holes, he made eight consecutive one-putts, and he seemed destined to go into the weekend in the lead.

However, a bogey pair at the final holes saw him drop back to join Keith Horne, English pair Laurie Canter and Jordan L Smith and Scotsman David Drysdale in a tie for fifth at nine under.

As disappointing as that was, losing McIlroy altogether will be a crushing blow to the fans.

“I actually thought about pulling out before even teeing off today,” McIlroy said in his post round interview. “I tweaked my back and the first few shots weren’t very comfortable and it still isn’t really comfortable. I can’t really take a deep breath, because I’ve done something to my upper back. I’m going to go get some treatment now. Considering that, I played well, stuck at it and hopefully I can feel better tomorrow.

“I don’t want to withdraw, it would let a lot of people down so that’s why I kept going today. As I said, I’m going to get some physio now and hopefully I’ll feel better.”

Steyn and McClatchie are caught in the bubble at level par after respective rounds of 70 and 73 and, with the cut line currently hovering at one under, it’s going to be a long wait for the two rising stars.

“I will rue the double bogey at six and I’m sure Kyle will feel the same about his bogeys at one and three if we don’t make it, but cut is not something we can control,” said Steyn. “We’ll just have to tough it out, but whatever happens, we’ve had an amazing experience and unforgettable memories of playing in our national Open.”

Meanwhile Jaco van Zyl aced the long 204-metre par-three on his way to a brilliant seven-under-par 65 and he reached halfway at eight-under to lie four of the pace.

That ‘perfect fluke’ – as it is somewhat disrespectfully known – landed him a BMW i8 worth R2-million and a welcome change of fortunes for a man who has made 16 aces in his tournament career.

Van Zyl’s last ace came during the second round of the Olympic Games in Rio last year, where he collected his first and only prize – an Alfred Dunhill fountain pen.

“That was the only thing I’ve ever won for a hole-in-one,” said a beaming Van Zyl. “Even when I made the ace at 17, I wasn’t sure whether the car was up for grabs in the final round only, or just over the weekend. It wasn’t until I got onto the green that I was told I’d got the car.

“It’s one of the hardest par-threes we play in South Africa. “It was into a little breeze off the left. As a right-handed player, that’s not ideal. I just hit an absolutely pure four-iron nice and high. It drifted a little bit on the wind. It looked pretty good coming down, but I’m getting on a bit, so I couldn’t see if it went in. I just saw the crowd go wild.”

Jbe’ Kruger had a round of great putting to thank for ending up on 10-under, two back: “I just made the putts. I think I made 24 putts but I only hit four fairways so it was amazing,” he said. “I like it when the greens are a bit faster so you don’t really have to hit them. You can literally just have sight of the line going in.”

Fisher Jnr also putted well, but he felt he needed to do better with other parts of his game. “I just don’t think I found enough fairways today which is not good,” he said. “So, I managed to scramble a bit today and hopefully over the weekend I can just find more fairways and give myself more chances.”

Play will resume at 7.15am on Saturday, and the cut will be made once the second round is complete.

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of Golf RSA.

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