Friday, 26 January 2001
Home favourite Hennie Otto fought his way back to the top of the leaderboard in the Mercedes-Benz South African Open at East London GC with five birdies in his last eight holes for a round of 70.

After his opening 65, Otto let his overnight lead slip with a double bogey on the 15th, his sixth, and two more bogeys on the 17th and first. But the 24 year old from Boksburg bounced back with a hat-trick of birdies from the second. His run came to an end when he narrowly missed holing his chip shot on the fifth but another brace of birdies followed on the next two holes to take him to nine under par 135.

The Qualifying School graduate leads compatriot Roger Wessels and England’s Greg Owen by a shot. Owen had moved into a share of the lead with a birdies on the 15th and 16th but dropped a shot on the last for a round of 69 and halfway total of 136, eight under par. Wessels also shot a 69 thanks to an outward half of 33.

“This is the culmination of two years of hard work on my swing and the mental side of my game," said Wessels.

A further shot off the pace was Germany’s Tobias Dier after a second round of 66 to move alongside Welshman Bradley Dredge who shot a two under par 70.

1999 Dubai Desert Classic champion David Howell and Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg both advanced up the leaderboard with rounds of 67 to move to six under, with Denmark’s Thomas Björn a shot further back after also shooting a five under par 67.

Bjorn was one of 54 players forced to return to the course at 0640 local time to complete his first round after two delays for lightning on Thursday afternoon.

The Ryder Cup player only had one hole to play before play was halted as darkness fell. But he made the most of his early start with a birdie on the 18th to get back to level par. The BMW International Open champion had fought back from three over after 12 holes to card a 72, and then carried on where he left off.

Starting his second round on the ninth, an eagle at the par five 11th was followed by birdies at 12, 13 and 15 to move him to five under par. His run came to an end with dropped shots on the 17th and the first but the Dane bounced back with three birdies on the third, fourth and seventh. A dropped shot on the final hole gave him a round of 67.

"There were a lot of up and downs but it's coming together and I putted fantastic on the front nine," said Bjorn who enjoyed a superb latter half to the 2000 season, finishing second at the Open and third in the USPGA championship.

"It's tough coming out having not played for a while and I feel a bit rusty but a score like this gives you confidence and hopefully it comes together for the weekend."

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