A superb birdie-eagle finish helped South African Dylan Frittelli assume the halfway lead at the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda.
The 23 year old from Joburg enjoyed a glittering college career in the USA, culminating in him holing the winning putt at the NCAA Championship finals last year to guarantee his ‘Texas Longhorns’ Team from Texas University the most prestigious college title in America.
Now making his way as a professional on the Challenge Tour, Frittelli finds himself leading Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman by a single stroke at the Jacques Lemans Golf Club, with Frenchman Edouard Dubois, England’s Billy Hemstock and Ireland’s Peter O’Keefe a further stroke back on nine under.
Roland Steiner leads the home challenge on eight under par after the Austrian added a three under 68 to his opening 66, but it was Frittelli’s grandstand finish that grabbed the headlines as he birdied his 17th hole before smashing a driver and a four iron to 15 feet before rolling home his eagle putt.
“Home in 31 was pretty good considering I bogeyed the easiest hole on the course on the front nine,” said Frittelli.
“It doesn’t help when you go for the superhero play with a hybrid from a severely sloping lie, but that’s what I did on four and I got my punishment with the bogey.
“But apart from that there was a lot of good stuff out there today and it is always a very satisfying way to end a good round with a birdie-eagle finish. That will always turn a decent round into a very good one and that’s how it turned out for me today.
“I am really looking forward to the weekend and getting out there and trying to get over the line. I have been playing nicely recently and have been putting myself into decent positions but I seem to be almost putting a little bit too much pressure on myself.
“There have been a few occasions where I have been three or four off the lead going into the weekend and have probably pushed too hard to try and close the leaders down, but obviously it will different for me tomorrow being the leader and I feel comfortable in that position. Hopefully I can just focus on my game and stick to my game plan because it feels good at the moment.”
Frittelli probably would not have been leading the tournament had Saltman not racked up a quadruple bogey eight on his 14th hole of the day.
The Scotsman was three under and cruising through his second round when he stood on the par four fifth tee. His only bad swing of the day proved costly as his drive flew out of bounds.
The resulting eight saw the 27 year old drop four strokes in one fatal swoop, but he did what all good players do in the face of such adversity by producing a magnificent recovery, birdieing his last three holes to add a second round 69 to his eight under 63 from day one to lie just one off the pace.
“It was certainly an adventurous end to the round,” smiled Saltman, a former Walker Cup team mate of World Number Two Rory Mcilroy.
“I was cruising along nicely having got off to another great start and was four under for my front nine. I dropped a shot on the first, my tenth hole of the day, but that was alright until I got to the fifth tee.
“My only real bad shot of the day put me in real trouble though. The drive went out of bounds – it was actually next to the horses the farm next to the course! I kind of thought it would be better to leave that ball to the horses and start again.
“I just made a mess of the hole – simple as that – but I was really pleased to finish the way I did. To make three birdies after a quad was really satisfying and I suppose it does kind of give an indication that I am playing well and generally swinging it really nicely.
“I have had a few rounds recently where I have started well and then had a poor second round and kind of just faded out of tournaments, so it was really important to recover my momentum the way I did today.
“I am excited about the weekend now and very much looking forward to trying to get out there tomorrow and keep going in the right direction. This is why we play the game: to get in amongst it at the weekend.”