Friday, 09 December 2005

Michiel Bothma takes a one stroke lead into the weekend in the dunhill championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa but will have to fight off a determined chasing pack if he is to lift his first European Tour title on Sunday.


Bothma lies on nine under par 135 with fellow South African’s Titch Moore and Louis Oosthuizen and England’s Philip Archer his nearest challengers on eight under par. Defending champion Charl Schwartzel lies in a group on seven under par while triple Major Champion Ernie Els is stalking them all at six under.


A number of players have still to complete their second rounds following the delays on the first day but Bothma’s lead is unlikely to be threatened.


Bothma shrugged off the effects of flu as he returned to the course with almost half the field to complete the delayed first round and carded an eight under par 64 to lead by two strokes. A 71 for his second round secured him the 36 hole lead as he chases victory in the event co-sanctioned by The European Tour and the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.


“I’m just going to go out on the weekend, play conservative golf and not make any bogeys and see what happens. I’ve set my goal and if that’s good enough then great. If not, then there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Bothma, whose biggest victory was the 2003 Telkom PGA Championship.


“I’ve got the flu so I just wanted to get through my round. I was quite nonchalant. I didn’t go for the big shots – just went for the middle of the green and now and then I pulled or pushed one close to the hole,” he said with a smile.


Moore similarly has his sights set on a maiden European Tour title. He has come close in recent seasons to gaining full playing privileges on The European Tour and has also been in contention several times on the Sunshine Tour but has failed to close out tournaments he’s led.


“I think it’s all about patience,” he said. “I’ve been here before so I can feed off that.” Moore is also hoping getting married two weeks ago to his long-time girlfriend Jackie may help.


“This is actually the first time I've been back on a golf course since my wedding. But a lot of players have won after they got married so hopefully I can keep that trend going.”


Schwartzel certainly believes he is in with a chance going into the weekend two strokes off the pace and despite a poor finish to his first round on Friday morning.


When the first round was suspended, Schwartzel was tied for the clubhouse lead on six under. But when play resumed on Friday morning he dropped several shots on his way in, including three in his final two holes, to slip to two under. A 67 for his second round placed him back in contention.


His playing partner Els also enjoyed a solid second round after his opening 71 and carded a 67 which could have been much better had he not missed several makeable birdie putts.


“I watched Ernie and his rhythm was really good. I think I fed off that a bit,” said Schwartzel. “This is a good position for me – two shots behind with 36 holes to go. I’m looking forward to it.”

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