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Golf | SA

Charl Coetzee © Gallo Images

Coetzee leads by one in Tshwane

A scintillating bogey-free round of 65 helped Charl Coetzee seize a one-stroke lead over compatriot Dawie van der Walt and Chilean Mark Tullo by the time play was abandoned on day two of the Tshwane Open at the Els Club Copperleaf on Friday.

Coetzee, who completed his seven-under round in the morning, reached the clubhouse with significant daylight between himself and the chasing pack at 12-under. However, Tullo mounted his charge in the afternoon, and closed out his round of 66 just minutes before the siren sounded for the suspension of play at 4:37pm due to thunderstorms. No further play was possible, and the day was officially abandoned shortly after 5:10pm.

Van Der Walt, who started the day on four under, raced to within one stroke of leader Coetzee before being called off on his 15th hole, and will have to return at 6:45am on Saturday morning to complete his second round.

American Peter Uihlein also posted a 66 to find himself at 10 under and in sole possession of fourth overnight, while Frenchman Romain Wattel lies a further stroke adrift in fifth on nine-under with one hole still to play in his second round.

Coetzee had started the day on five-under par for the event after an accomplished 67 on day one, and he wasted little time improving on his overnight score as he birdied the second and third holes to elevate himself into a share of the lead. A further birdie on the par-five eighth hole helped him to close out a front nine of 33, but it was on the back nine where he got it going as he charged home with four birdies.

“I hit the ball nicely and hit a lot of fairways. I also hit a lot of greens and made a lot of putts - that was key. This is quite a long golf course, so you have to hit it well off the tee. But it’s set up fairly, so whoever makes the most putts will end up on top,” Coetzee said.

“Tee to green, I never got myself into any trouble and if you make the odd putt then the scores will come,” he added.

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Since clinching victory at Sunshine Tour Qualifying School after turning pro in 2007, Coetzee has finished inside the Tour’s top 60 on the Order of Merit every year. But, with no other professional victories to his credit, the 31-year-old finds himself in somewhat unchartered territory leading a co-sanctioned event. In professional golf, winning for the second time is often a lot easier than winning for the first, but Coetzee is taking it all in his stride and is simply pleased to be in the hunt.

“I felt like I’ve started playing better over the last few weeks. It’s still early days, but at least I’ve built a good lead. There’s a lot of golf left and some of the first-round leaders only teed off now, so we’ve got today and two more rounds so we’ll have to see how things go.

“But I’m not going to do things a great deal differently this weekend. I’ve played here a couple of times, and I like the course, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. Let’s just see where I land up come Sunday!” he concluded.

Tullo, who enjoyed a solid 2011 season on the European Tour, finished 119th in the Race to Dubai and missed out on retaining his card by just one spot. An 18th-place finish in the 2012 Challenge Tour rankings ensured a return to the main Tour for 2013, and he impressed with a finish in a tie for fifth at the Africa Open Golf Challenge in East London a fortnight ago. Rounds of 67 and 66 over the first two days here are indicative that his form is on the up, and the Chilean was understandably content with his position at the halfway mark.

“Again, to play like I did today was very pleasing,” Tullo said. “I was solid from tee to green. I putted quite well too, although I left a couple out there at the end. But all round, I played very consistently, and I’m happy about it.

“I gave myself many chances with the putter, so as long as I keep doing that one or two are going to drop. But the tournament starts, as always, on Sunday when you get to the back nine. As long as I’m in the hunt, I’ll be happy. We’ll see what happens then I suppose.”

After reaching the turn in 32, Tullo attempted to keep his momentum going as the ominous skies closed in. A birdie at the final hole capped things off nicely, but he admitted that the looming weather had affected his play coming home.

“That siren sounded just after we finished, and that’s the best thing that can happen to you. To come here at seven in the morning to finish your round is not what you want to do!” he said with a wry smile.

The 35-year old added: “It does affect you a little bit when you see the storms. The three of us started walking a little bit faster and putting a little bit faster. You want to get in as fast as you can when you see that big storm coming in.”

Round three will commence no earlier than 9:20am, and will be a two-tee start in three balls.


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