Countrymen Oliver Bekker and JC Ritchie tamed the strong winds at T Golf & Country Club to share a one-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A.
The South African duo are tied on seven under par after 36 holes in Mallorca, one shot clear of Denmark’s Marcus Helligkilde and Sweden’s Jesper Kennegard who share third place on six under par.
Ritchie carded five birdies before bogeying the last to post a four under par round of 67 and set the target at seven under par, while 36-year-old Bekker dropped his first shots of the week with a double bogey at the par four tenth hole, but bounced back immediately with a birdie at the 11th to post a two under par round of 69 and join his friend and compatriot at the top of the leaderboard.
“I’m happy with that today,” Bekker said. “I played nicely and had one bad hole but other than that I was pretty solid and scrambled when I had to.
“JC played pretty well today with a five under par, probably the lowest round today and it’s going to be good fun playing with him tomorrow, we have known each other for a long time.
“The end goal of the week is to Top the Rankings but at the moment I am just enjoying it, even with the bad weather and making the most out of it.”
Bekker arrived at T Golf & Country Club in eighth position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and therefore has his European Tour card locked in for 2022, however Ritchie currently sits 29th and needs to continue his strong start into the weekend if he is to secure one of the 20 graduation spots on offer.
“It feels like the first time this year that we have actually played a golf course where players aren’t going to shoot 20 under par,” he said. I like these kinds of golf courses, I like playing courses that force you to grind. Today was a real grind and I am super chuffed with my score.
“For ten holes I managed to keep the ball in play and managed to get myself through the tough holes at one under par, then played the par-fives really well. I managed to hit a miraculous three-iron on the 12th hole to about 12 feet and made the putt on probably the toughest hole on the course. That settled me down to enjoy the rest of the round and take advantage of the birdies waiting for me on the back nine.”
Overnight co-leader Espen Kofstad, Road to Mallorca Number Four Julien Brun, Germany’s Yannik Paul and Denmark’s Nicolai Kristensen share fifth place on five under par. Five players, including Road to Mallorca Number One Santiago Tarrio and four-time European Tour winner Matteo Manassero are a shot further back on four under par.
The third round of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A will begin at 8:15am local time, with Bekker and Ritchie teeing it up in the final group alongside Helligkilde at 10:50am.