South African newcomer Anthony Michael extended his lead to two shots halfway through the Alfred Dunhill Championship on Friday after two rounds at Leopard Creek Country Club. The event, co-sanctioned with southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour, is the official start of the 2011 season on the European Tour.
Michael, the little-known South African, carded a six-birdie, three-bogey 69 on Friday to follow up his first-round 66. However, it was good enough to keep him top of the leaderboard, with his closest challenge coming from South Africans Alex Haindl and Dawie Van der Walt along with Englishman Robert Rock.
2010 ALFRED DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP
The Alfred Dunhill Championship is the first event of the 2011 European Tour season.
Haindl was particularly impressive storming his way around the course in a bogey-free 66, a round that was set up by a set of eagles on the par-5 15th and par-5 second along with two birdies. Still, the 27-year-old from Bloemfontein, who began on the back nine, was not entirely satisfied.
"I hit nice hybrids in for my eagles -- on the front edge on 15 where I sank quite a nice putt, and I hit it to about seven feet on two,” he said. "I three-putted once, and I missed quite a few six-footers. The greens are quite difficult -- there's quite a bit of grain in them. But the rest of my game's been good."
"It's been a much better year for me,” he explained. “All the work I've been doing with my coach John Dixon's starting to come through."
Norwegian Marius Thorp was all alone on 6 under par overall after following his 67 up with a 71, while six players were further back on 5 under. Defending champion Pablo Martin was one of them after a round of 70, along with another local Keith Horne, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, Swede Oskar Henningsson and Britons Scott Jamieson and Neil Cheetham.
Overall leader and former baseball player Michael, who only turned professional a year ago, admitted he was happy to have achieved his target set out at the start of play.
"I went out there today just to shoot under 70. I said that if I can shoot three rounds under 70, that will be really good,” he said. "I got off to a pretty good start and that took some of the pressure off and from there I kicked on. I felt comfortable out there and there was a sense of belonging for me. So all in all, I'm quite happy."
British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen continued his woeful record at the Mpumalanga course by missing the cut for a fifth year in succession. The 28-year-old, the highest ranked player in the field with his world ranking of 24, improved in Round 2 with a 1-under 71, but his 76 on Day 1 proved his downfall.
The other two high-profile home favorites, Charl Schwartzel and Richard Sterne, did survive the weekend chop, though -- the former with a second successive 72 (4 under overall) and the latter ending Round 2 with a level-par 72 (1 over overall).