O'Hara holds halfway advantage

11/25/2011 3:30:38 PM
Steven O'Hara  (Getty Images)
Steven O'Hara (Getty Images)
Scotland's Steven O'Hara, fighting for his European Tour life, leads the SA Open Championship on his own after a second round 68 at Serengeti.

Without a win in 222 events going back a decade and down in 134th place on The Race to Dubai, the 31 year old kept a bogey off his card to reach 11 under par at halfway.

Twice winner Retief Goosen and his fellow South African Merrick Bremner are right on his heels, however, and five-time champion Ernie Els is far from out of things five behind after a second successive 69.

Unless he finishes in the top five to earn himself a place in next week's UBS Hong Kong Open, this is O'Hara's last opportunity to keep his European Tour card.

To do it in one go he will now need to be in the top three on Sunday as Northern Ireland's Gareth Maybin - the player in the vital 118th position - survived the cut with nothing to spare at two under.

O'Hara, joint overnight leader with South African Jbe Kruger, had three birdies in a back nine 33, picked up another shot on the 382 yard second and then closed with seven successive pars.

“I have played really well, my whole game feels in good shape,” said O’Hara. “I need a good finish to keep my card on The European Tour, a top three or four finish so I’ve put myself in a good position to do that.

“This will be my last one unless I get a top-five finish, which may get me into Hong Kong. It’s like I’ve got nothing to lose anyway, so I’ve been a bit more aggressive this week.

“I’m just going to go out and keep doing what I’ve been doing. Keep trusting my swing and if I’ve got a position to win on Sunday, then brilliant.”

Goosen, runner-up to Els last year in Durban, grabbed five birdies, including one on the 485 yard 18th for the second day running, but a bogey at the short fifth meant he matched O'Hara's round.

Bremner also shot 68, coming back with six birdies after he had bogeyed the 225 yard 12th - his third - and double-bogeyed the next.

“Any time I’m one shot off the lead going into the weekend it’s great,” said Goosen.

Last week's Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Garth Mulroy is only two back with little-known South African qualifier Lyle Rowe, whose superb joint best-of-the-day 66 came from 1,388th on the Official World Golf Rankings - effectively joint last.

Rowe had a second round 88 in the event last December, but this time eagled the eighth and had six birdies along with two bogeys.

O'Hara and Maybin are not the only ones involved in the scramble for cards, of course.

Scotland's former amateur star Lloyd Saltman, 136th on The Race to Dubai, moved up to joint eighth on seven under with a 68, while former Ryder Cup player Phillip Price (117th) is alongside Els in 14th place.

Oliver Wilson, a member of Europe's side only three years ago and now 133rd, reached six under as well, but found the hazard on the par three ninth - his last - and ran up a costly double bogey that just piles the pressure on even more.

At least he has Hong Kong to come and so does Price's fellow Welshman Stephen Dodd, who is likely to drop from his current 122nd spot after withdrawing with a hand injury.