JOHANNESBURG — Charl Schwartzel transformed a poor tee shot into an eagle three Friday en route to a 63 and a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the South African Open in Johannesburg.
The 2011 Masters champion found the rough with his drive at the par-five 17th and played a safe second on to the fairway rather than risk trying to reach a green fronted by a water hazard.
His third shot went past the pin, then rolled down the sloping green into the hole for an unlikely eagle at Randpark Golf Club.
“It was one of my worst tee shots of the week,” admitted the 34-year-old who is chasing a first South African Open title after finishing runner-up twice.
“After my drive at 17 I believed a birdie four or even a par five would be a good score for me at that hole.”
“You can imagine my joy when I hit that third shot to the green and watched it roll back into the hole.”
Schwartzel, who began the second round five shots behind pacesetter and fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen, got six birdies as well as his eagle.
The South African was thrilled to turn good practice form — he fired rounds of 62 and 63 at Randpark in the build-up to the tournament — into equally good tournament figures.
“On the range and in practice rounds everything goes great,” said the 11-time European Tour winner.
“Then you have this little thing called ‘golf’ when you have to put a score on the board. That is where we are judged, and rightly so.”
Schwartzel is on 130, one shot ahead of Zambian Madalitso Muthiya, whose rounds of 63 and 68 have defied his 1,330 world ranking.
After starting with a 62, former British Open champion Oosthuizen could manage only a one-under 70 that included three birdies and two bogeys.
He shares third place on 132 with fellow South African Zander Lombard, who fired a 68, and American Kurt Kitayama, the winner of the Mauritius Open last Sunday who carded a 69.
Defending champion Chris Paisley of England carded a second successive 70 to trail Schwartzel by 10 shots.