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Friday, 19 March 2010
South African Airways Open - Round One  (Getty Images)
South African Airways Open - Round One (Getty Images)

A thrilling battle was taking place at the top of the leaderboard as the South African Open Championship moved towards the halfway stage.

Damien McGrane, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood all finished their second rounds in a tournament total of 134 - ten under par - to share the clubhouse lead.

And the trio of Thomas Aiken, David Horsey and Gareth Maybin were all just a stroke behind after completing their second rounds at Pearl Valley Golf Estates.

Last year`s Volvo China Open winner McGrane produced the most impressive performance of the second day - an eight under par 64.

The Irishman started on the tenth tee and picked up six birdies on the way out for a six under par 30 on the back nine.

He added another birdie at the first and picked up a shot at the 363 yard sixth to complete a bogey free round.

“It was strange the way it happened,” McGrane said after his round.

“We had a good threeball [with Charl Schwartzel and Darren Fichardt], and Charl had four birdies to start his game straightaway and I had one par and four birdies to follow him.

“It was tough to get the honour on the front nine, but I think I was brought along by his momentum.  He was playing well and he's a world class player, as you know. I just got into the game and went along with his birdies. So both of us fed off each other a little bit and nice to see both of us at the top of a leaderboard.”

World Number Ten Westwood added a 68 to build on his opening 66, with five birdies and a single bogey in his first round.

He said: “I gave myself a lot of chances, when I missed the my green short game was good. I felt I rolled the ball better on the greens. I got a few more running out of the hole, which I didn't yesterday.

“I don't want to put any unneeded pressure on myself. I've not won all year and it would be nice to win this year, and also starting this Race to Dubai, it would be nice to get some momentum in that. It would also be good just to finish off the year solidly. I've played good all year, and I'm continuing to do it this week.”

South Africans have won this event seven years in a row and Aiken and Schwartzel were both in contention to make it an eighth.

Madrid Masters winner Schwartzel posted eight birdies in his seven under par 65, while Aiken - tied for fourth at last week`s Alfred Dunhill Championship having led going into the final round - matched McGrane`s 64 with a brilliant bogey free display.

Schwartzel said: “I got off to a really good start. I birdied my first four holes, and then it just gets all around going. 

“I hit some fantastic shots, and just sort of during the middle of the round, nothing was happening and my back nine started three birdies again.

“All in all, it was a very good round for me. I felt like I played really well and I didn't make any mistakes, except for my tee shot on the last, and still managed to escape with a par there, which was very nice.”

Aiken added: “Obviously last week was a little disappointing, and it wasn't that easy to get it out of my mind but eventually I did come Thursday.

“I guess you just have to take the positives out of it. I had the two great rounds on a Friday and Saturday and didn't really play that bad on a Sunday, I just didn't sink any putts and hit one bad golf shot.

“It's a new week, obviously playing decently, so I put myself in a good position again this week to give myself a chance. That's what golf is all about, it's about giving yourself chances and one of them will come.”

An eagle three at the par five fifth was the highlight of Englishman Horsey`s 65, while European Challenge Tour graduate Maybin recovered from three bogeys on the front nine to record a 69.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1STERNE, RichardRSA18-14
T1MAYBIN, GarethNIR18-14
T3WESTWOOD, LeeENG18-13
T3ELS, ErnieRSA18-13
T3MCILROY, RoryNIR18-13
T6FINCH, RichardENG18-12
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