Friday, 14 December 2007

Reuters - Greg Norman celebrated his engagement to former tennis star, Chris Evert, by firing a second round of 70 at the South African Airways Open to move into title contention at Pearl Valley Golf Estate, just three shots behind leader James Kingston.

The former World Number One is on 145, one over par for the tournament, and in a tie for sixth place along with a group of players, including Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke.

Norman, who has played just three other regular Tour events around the world in the last two years since turning 50, said the 6,801-metre course on the Western Cape remained a daunting challenge in the windy conditions.

"It's tough around the greens, it's tough to get the right distance on your second shots. You have to be patient, bear down and concentrate hard, otherwise you will shoot some high scores," he said.

Former tennis champion Evert and Norman had announced their engagement prior to Norman turning back the clock with one of the best rounds of a breezy second day. Only Dutchman Joost Luiten (82-67), Kingston (73-69) and England’s Oliver Wilson (76-69) managed to break 70, which made 52 year old Norman’s two under par score all the more commendable.

Evert and Norman divorced their spouses in the last year -- Australian Norman agreeing a reported $100-million (£49.4-million) settlement with Laura in September and Evert splitting from Andy Mill, her second husband, last December.

Evert, the winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, confirmed the engagement at a news conference to announce she would be building a tennis centre at the Pearl Valley Golf Estates, where the South African Airways Open golf is being held.

Asked whether there were any marriage plans between her and Norman, the American, sporting a large diamond on her left ring finger, replied: "Well, it is an engagement ring. We were engaged on Sunday night coming over here, en route to South Africa. We don't know when and where we'll be married though."

Evert, 53, jokingly asked Norman: "Why don't you say something to them (the media)? Gee, you're a big chicken!"

Kingston had an eagle, two birdies and a bogey in his solid round of 69 to give him the outright lead in the world's second oldest Open Championship. He said: "I was so solid on the back nine, I only missed two or three greens, but the wind was gusting so hard it was pushing you in all directions.

"With the ball oscillating on the greens and the wind pushing you from behind it was so tough making a decent putt. It took a lot of energy just to stand still."

He lies one clear of fellow countryman, Andrew McLardy and Kyron Sullivan of Wales, who both added 71s to their first round 72s. Scotland's Euan Little and South African Ulrich Van Den Berg are tied fourth on 144, level par.

US Open Champion, Angel Cabrera of Argentina, clipped seven strokes off his opening 80 to make the cut right on the qualifying mark of nine over par while defending champion Ernie Els of South Africa also showed a marked improvement from day one, following his opening 77 with a round of 70.

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