Charl Schwartzel carded a 2-under-par 34-36=70 in his third round at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and remains on course to win his home tournament for a fourth time.
But a repeat of his 12-shot victory in this event three years ago is almost certainly off the menu after his five-stroke overnight lead was cut to three. Schwartzel's modest 70, which took him to 13-under 203 with 18 holes to play, allowed the chasing pack to come at him and his biggest threat now comes from a pair of Frenchmen, Sebastien Gros and Benjamin Hebert. Gros pulled to within three after Saturday's low round, a 63, while Hebert joined his compatriot on 10-under via a 68. Schwartzel is five in front of fourth-placed Dylan Frittelli. What had the makings of a frustrating day for the leader started with a bogey followed by four pars. After he picked up shots at the 6th and 7th, Schwartzel had to wait until the 17th for his only other birdie of the round. Okay, the 31-year-old may own a green jacket but having not posted a worldwide win since this tournament in December 2013, it's far from a done deal just yet.
Joost Luiten cashed in on Leopard Creek's three back-nine par 5s and moved up to tied second place at the Alfred Dunhill Championship with a 2-under-par 38-32=70 on Friday.
The Dutchman's round looked to be getting away from him when he followed a double bogey-5 at 7 with another dropped shot at 8 to turn in 3-over 38. But from flirting with the cut, he surged into T2 thanks to a gain at 10, birdie-4s at 13 and 15 and a closing eagle at the 541-yard par-5 18th. Luiten arrived at 6-under 138 -- five shots behind clear leader Charl Schwartzel -- after splitting 8 (of 14) fairways, hitting 13 greens in regulation and taking 30 putts.
Benjamin Hebert moved up to tied second place after two rounds of the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa after a 2-under-par 36-34=70 on Friday.
After four pars and two bogeys in his opening six holes at Leopard Creek, the Frenchman turned his score around with birdies at 7, 10, 13 and 15 to post 6-under 138 at the midpoint. That puts him alongside Richard Sterne, Joost Luiten and Pablo Martin Benavides in joint second although it's five behind runaway leader Charl Schwartzel. Hebert has now made nine cuts in a row on the European Tour and is 69-under during that spell.
With a 2-under-par 33-37=70 in his second round at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, Richard Sterne moved into T2 at 6-under 138.
The South African, who won this event in 2008, even threatened to reel in five-shot leader Charl Schwartzel at one point after playing his opening nine at Leopard Creek in 4-under 33. However, he wobbled on his way home and bogeyed 3 and 9 to drop back into a four-way tie for second. Sterne returned to action with a T20 in last week's Cape Town Open so, for now, is making light of any rustiness caused by a lengthy absence due to injury.
Pablo Martin Benavides posted a 3-under-par 32-37=69 in round two of the Alfred Dunhill Championship and climbed up into a share for second.
The Spaniard won this tournament back-to-back in 2009 and 2010 so a return to Leopard Creek has clearly got his competitive juices flowing again. It could actually have been even better for Martin Benavides after five birdies in his opening 13 but he dropped shots at 14, 16 and 18 to park up at 6-under 138. That's five swings behind leader Charl Schwartzel and puts him T2 on the live leaderboard.
Home hero Charl Schwartzel authored a 5-under-par 34-33=67 on day two of the Alfred Dunhill Championship to post 11-under 133 and kick five shots clear of the field at the midpoint.
The South African's first job today was to finish off round one after the threat of storms on Thursday afternoon had curtailed his opening lap at the 17th. Despite the early alarm call, Schwartzel carded a walk-off birdie to complete a 66 and finish in solo second before overtaking leader Christiaan Basson with a strong second 18 featuring six birdies against a single bogey. With scoring conditions getting harder as the day went on, the 31-year-old ended round two with a five-shot lead over Joost Luiten, Benjamin Hebert, Richard Sterne and Martin Benavides. Schwartzel, who hit 16 greens in regulation for the second day running, is firmly on course to win this title for a fourth time after previous triumphs at Leopard Creek in 2006, 2012 and 2013. "It's definitely my favourite place to come and play," he said later. "The golf course also suits my eye really well. The last ten years I've aimed at the same trees on every hole at the end of the fairways."
Charl Schwartzel climbed up to T2 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa before the first round was halted due to dangerous weather.
Schwartzel had made his move at the European Tour's 2016 opener with a trio of birdies at 14, 15 and 16 but, after a par at the next, he was forced off the course. Along with 38 others, the 2011 Masters champion will return to Leopard Creek at 0630 local time on Friday to finish up. Schwartzel has won his home event three times and has been runner-up on four other occasions so he's meeting expectations so far, especially after posting T4 in last week's DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. He shares second spot with England's Matt Ford and Zimbabwean Matt Williams and has the chance to close the gap on three-shot clubhouse leader Christiaan Basson as the hole he has left to complete is a 541-yard par 5.
Defending champion Branden Grace had to settle for a 1-under-par 37-34=71 in round one of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
That's nine shots higher than his opening round last year when he went on to crush the field by seven shots. Grace looked to be cruising to another low one when circling birdies at 10 and 13 but he gave those shots back with a double bogey-6 at the 14th. He got it going again with birdies at 1 and 4 but played his final five holes in 1-over to post a rather disappointing 71. That's currently seven off the lead held by compatriot Christiaan Basson. On the live leaderboard, Grace is currently T36.