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

Michael Lorenzo-Vera holds a two shot lead at the South African Open Championship after a second round 65.

The Frenchman's seven under par effort at Pearl Valley Golf Estates took him to 12 under for the tournament, two strokes clear of the challenging pack.

But the 23 year old faces stiff competition over the weekend with four time winner Ernie Els, World Number Ten Lee Westwood, three time European Tour winner Charl Schwartzel and Volvo China Open champion Damien McGrane all hot on his heels at ten under par.

Lorenzo-Vera - who briefly led on the opening day when he completed the front nine in 31 before fading on the way in- started at the tenth and was two under at the turn thanks to birdies on the tenth and 18th.

For the second day running he picked up five shots on the front nine and his bogey free round set him clear at the top of the leaderboard.

And after a day to remember for the leader admitted afterward that his main aim coming into the competition was to test his right wrist, which he injured two months ago by falling over some stairs.

“It feels pretty good, pretty cool to be leading because I had two months of rest because of my wrist,” said Lorenzo-Vera, who was playing in his first tournament since the injury. “So I was just coming here to find some new feelings.

“Today was just like yesterday, the putting was very good. The first nine, the putts were not very good, I think mainly because they were long putts. But the second nine I hit the irons much closer. But everything was good.”

Looking forward to his chances for the weekend, the Frenchman said that he was hoping to make his good position count.

He added: “I hope this time I’m going to catch it. There were few occasions last year that I let it go, so I’m just going to try and make it a good weekend. I’ll be aiming to hit a lot of greens in regulation like I did today.” 

McGrane produced the joint best round of the 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.”

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 green my short game was good. I felt I rolled the ball better on the greens.

“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 Els 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 Els - who last won the tournament two years ago - registered a second successive 67.

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.”

Els said: “It’s only the second round, halfway through the tournament and still so much to happen. I’m at ten under and pretty pleased with that. I had a nice day and even if a guy is at 15 under I don’t care.

“We’ve got two rounds left. If I’m two shots behind with two to play I still have a chance to win, so there’s still plenty of golf left.”

The trio of Thomas Aiken, David Horsey and Gareth Maybin were all just one shot further back on nine under for the tournament.

Aiken - who led last week`s Alfred Dunhill Championship going into the final round before slipping into a tie for fourth - said: “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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