Charl Schwartzel (Getty Images)
Charl Schwartzel followed his emphatic 11 shot victory in Thailand last week with another imperious display to claim a share of the halfway lead at the Alfred Dunhill Championship then warned the rest of the field; there is more to come.
Having collected his first title since becoming a Major Champion at the 2011 Masters Tournament on Sunday with a resounding wire-to-wire success, Schwartzel’s best-of-the-week 64 at Leopard Creek saw him join France’s overnight leader Grégory Bourdy at the top of the leaderboard on 13 under par.
“All in all a very good round and I've put myself in a very good position to compete,” said the 28 year old. “I was playing good golf, hitting good iron shots, hitting it to the rights places and I was converting the putts
“My game seems to improve over the round. Over the last few holes there were signs of better striking. Hopefully if I can take that and continue with it tomorrow then it will get better as the week goes on.
“It doesn't involve scoring - it just makes me a lot more confident walking the course and knowing where I'm going to hit it. I'm more precise when I strike the ball over certain distances. I'm still scoring, and there's a difference between hitting the ball well and scoring.
“When you're hitting it well you feel in control. The way I'm hitting it now it feels like I've got to dig a lot deeper to grind a score out. I just hope to start striking it better and feel a bit more at ease when I'm out there.
“Last week was terrible; I didn't hit it well at all, but the golf course just suited me. It wasn't nearly as good as it was in Dubai, at the SA Open, even at the Nedbank.
“With the win, you do build up a bit of confidence, but I don't want to expect anything. Expectation is not a good thing - I just play. It was a nice win last week, just to break the ice after winning The Masters. It's such a big thing, and everyone always talks about 'when are you going to win again?'
“Winning is not as easy as everyone thinks it is. You can play well sometimes and not win. For me breaking the ice was the best part of it - we've got a win again and I could put the whole Masters thing behind us and carry on. It's gone almost two years now, so let's talk about something new now, make some new memories.”
While Schwartzel may not feel on top of his game, his recent results suggest otherwise - he has finished fifth, third, second and first in his last four starts.
The 28 year old South African has yet to drop a stroke and picked up an eagle and six birdies on a course where he captured his first European Tour title in 2005 and has previously had four runner-up finishes.
Bourdy was not to be outdone, however, and by adding a 65 to his pacesetting opening 66 kept alive his hopes of a fourth European Tour title.
Highlight of his round was pitching in for an eagle two at the 319 yard sixth.
The 30 year old had just holed from 25 feet on the previous green and he sank another at the eighth as he and Schwartzel moved clear of the chasing pack.
“I'm feeling great and I played two good rounds,” said Bourdy. “I had many birdie opportunities again today, especially on the first holes.
“My game was again solid, and I made just one bogey today, so it was a great round again.
“It's going to be an exciting weekend. Charl is a great player, one of the best in the world. In South Africa it's always nice to play with some of the top players in the world on Saturday and Sunday. I like these guys, so it should be a great time.
“It's tough all week - you have to do the job over four rounds and that is difficult. When you play well you have to see how you are on Sunday. Tomorrow I will try to do the same - shot by shot, play my game. I think the top players will do the same.”
Schwartzel’s fellow South African Darren Fichardt was four strokes back in third place following a 68, with last week’s runner-up Steve Webster and another of the home contingent in Louis de Jager going best of the afternoon starters to reach eight under.