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Lawrence leads the way as Joburg Open cut to 54 holes

Lawrence leads the way as Joburg Open cut to 54 holes

Thriston Lawrence opened up a commanding four shot lead with a second consecutive 65 as the weather delayed Joburg Open was reduced to a 54-hole event after international travel restrictions were placed on South Africa due to COVID-19.

Thriston Lawrence

As the new season of the DP World Tour ushered in a new era for golf, the South African managed to avoid the storms around Randpark Golf Club and get to 12 under, four clear of countryman Zander Lombard, who carded a 67.

England's Ashley Chesters was then at seven under, one ahead of Spaniard Angel Hidalgo, with South African Hennie du Plessis in the clubhouse at five under.

After play ended early due to dangerous conditions on day one, two hours and 33 minutes were lost to storms on day two, with the field facing heavy rain for much of the time after the resumption.

Home favourite Shaun Norris was the best of the afternoon wave at six under with six holes of round two to complete.

The switch to a 54-hole event was made to help non-South African resident players, caddies and tournament support staff return to their home countries after international travel restrictions were imposed on South Africa due to the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in the country. The decision was taken to help facilitate their safe return and give them an extra day to make travel arrangements.

Lawrence is playing just his 22nd DP World Tour event this week, with six made cuts and a best finish of 17th in the previous 21.

But after matching the lowest round of his DP World Tour career twice this week, he has put himself in an excellent position to potentially add to his Sunshine Tour win claimed at the 2019 Vodacom Origins Stellenbosch.

"It's been lovely," he said. "Everything seems to be working well. I've made three eagles in six rounds so that's six under just there.

"I've been hitting it nicely off the tee and putting nicely for a change. I know this golf course quite well so I've got great confidence on the greens.

"I'm happy for where I am now.

I'm happy for where I am now. Obviously there's a lot of expectations but I'm just going to go out and do what I do, it's still a normal day on the golf course

"Obviously there's a lot of expectations but I'm just going to go out and do what I do, it's still a normal day on the golf course."

Lawrence parred the ninth to complete round one in the morning and stay in a share of the lead with Hidalgo but it was not long until he was pulling away from the rest.

As many of his rivals were treading water, the 24-year-old made a hat-trick of gains after an approach to three feet at the third to lead by three and another on the tenth then the had him in double figures.

He birdied the 12th and made an eagle at the par five 14th for the second day in a row from eight feet to hold a five shot lead before a bogey on the 17th trimmed his advantage.

Lombard also parred his one remaining hole in the morning and then rattled off three birdies in a row from the 12th before bogeying the 17th.

Further birdies on the fourth and seventh left him a shot ahead of Chesters, who had managed to finish his first round on day one.

The 32-year-old slipped back with a bogey on the third but gains on the sixth, 12th and 14th helped him sign for a 69.

Hidalgo had a roller coaster with five birdies and five bogeys in his 71, while Du Plessis eagled the 12th but also made five bogeys and four birdies in a 70.

Home trio Heinrich Bruiners, Keith Horne and JC Ritchie were in the clubhouse at four under alongside German Yannik Paul, with Frenchman Frederic Lacroix also eight shots off the lead with six holes to play.

Round two will resume at 06:30 on Saturday morning, with the third and final round then due to start at 09.30 at the earliest. The third round will be a two-tee start with players grouped in three-balls.

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