Schwartzel shines on rainy Friday to share halfway lead in Joburg Open

charl schwartzel, thomas aiken
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Charl Schwartzel (center left) and Thomas Aiken (center right) shared a laugh as they marched their way up the leaderboard on Friday.
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PA Sport and Associated Press

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Defending champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa fired a 10-under 61 for a share of the halfway lead at the Joburg Open on Friday.

Schwartzel had 10 birdies on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to finish even with Jamie Elson of England and Garth Mulroy of South Africa at 13-under 129 after the second round of the event, co-sanctioned by the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.

2011 JOBURG OPEN

The Joburg Open features an oversized field of 210 players from both the European Tour and southern Africa's Sunshine Tour.

Elson had five straight birdies in a 64 on the longer East Course. Mulroy also shot 64 on the East, mixing an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys.

James Kingston shot a 62, Thomas Aiken had a 66 and Tyrone Mordt a 68 to be tied for fourth one shot back.

Players alternate courses over the first two rounds before playing the final two rounds on the East Course.

Heavy rain around the area meant play had to be suspended for close to three hours on Friday, with more than 25 players now set to return on Saturday morning to complete their rounds after organizers called off play at 6:50 p.m. local time.

Heading the chasing pack are a trio of South Africans, amongst them James Kingston, whose 62 on the West Course was the second lowest round of the day. Also on 12 under are Round 1 co-leader Tyrone Mordt (68) and Thomas Aiken (66) -- the pair playing on the East and West, respectively.

Two more locals were on 11 under, Branden Grace shot a 68 on the East, and Martin Maritz, the other player to lead after the first day, lacked consistency as he ended the easier of the courses with a 69.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke carded a 3-under 68 to move to 4 under overall, the same as former champion Richard Sterne (70). They are expected to make the cut when it is drawn Saturday, but will find difficulty in catching the leaders.

Elson is one of them and one of the main reasons the Englishman got there was because he managed to reel off five successive birdies in a second bogey-free round.

"I played fantastic, I mean a lot of fairways and a lot of greens, managed to hole a few putts obviously and shot a lovely score, 7 under,” said the 29-year-old former Walker Cup player. “I'm delighted with that. It's very wet out there and playing exactly like it did last year.

"I managed to get of to a decent start,” he added. “I was keen to have a good start after yesterday shooting 6 under on the West. I was bogey free again just like yesterday, so all in all, it was pretty perfect round of golf."

Schwartzel, whose 61 would have beaten the previous 62 course record had the rules this week not been lift, clean and place -- implemented due to the wet conditions in Johannesburg.

He was pleased with his round, which saw him end the first nine in 31 and then breeze his way to 30 on the way home.

"I think 61 is my lowest score in a tournament,” he said. “I've shot 60s before, quite a few, but those were in practice rounds."

Reflecting on 18 holes, the 26-year-old, a five-time winner on the European Tour, added: "It was a fantastic round. I played quite a lot better than yesterday. I hit some great tee shots and iron shots and just about used every opportunity that I had on the greens. I putted well too, so it was good."