Lancashire’s Paul Eales and Darren Fichardt from Pretoria moved into a share of the halfway lead in the Mercedes-Benz South African Open Championship at Randpark Club, Johannesburg.
Both players extolled the virtues of family life as they claimed a one stroke advantage over the field on 135, nine under par. Eales attributed the arrival of his first child for helping him take a more relaxed attitude to his sport, while Fichardt – who lost his bachelor status only ten days ago – waxed lyrically about married life.
Eales, who won the Open de Extremadura in 1994 but has been unable to add that difficult follow-up victory, tagged a three under par 69 to his opening 66 while Fichardt compiled his total the other way round – a 69 followed by a second round 66.
Lurking menacingly behind the leading pair are some of the biggest names on the European Tour. Ian Woosnam shot a 66 for a halfway aggregate of 136 alongside first round leader Wallie Coetsee and another South African, Don Gammon.
Meanwhile World No.6 Lee Westwood climbed into contention with a 68 to follow his first round 69 and he stands alone in sixth position on 137, seven under par.
Eales, though, revealed that he is enjoying parenthood to the extent that it has aided his golf. He explained: “We had a baby boy, Joshua, 20 months ago and since then I’ve started to play well and enjoy my golf. My game has improved and, really, it comes down to the fact that I am just playing a game.
“Joshua is far more important than anything. If I lost my card I could go home and get a club job and spend more time with my son because that is where my priorities lie. It’s a more relaxed Paul Eales over the past year and I’ve started to play some better golf.”
Fichardt, 24, has spent some time on the Canadian Tour but believes he is ready to capture a “big one”. He said: “I am definitely ready. I’ve been knocking on the door for a while.”
He added: “I felt there was something lacking in my game and now I know what it is. I married a psychologist! It’s the best thing I ever did. Natasha and I are working hard on my mind and I am now thinking more positively.”
Woosnam, without a victory since 1997, showed a return to form with a six under par 66 an said: “That was an easy 66. I was knocking it really close. I played well today and I am right in there.”
Westwood, who missed his first cut of 1999, admitted to a touch of surprise at finishing the day on seven under par. He commented: “I was out to make the cut in my first tournament of the year. I feel fresher and more prepared for this season and it would be nice to get a win early in the year.”
A total of 77 players made the halfway cut on level par, 144, which eliminated defending champion, David Frost of South Africa, who finished on 147.