Pablo Larrazábal’s love for Leopard Creek shone through as he opened up a three-stroke lead over the field going into the weekend of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
On another scorching day in the bushveld, the Spaniard signed for a round of 69 and the lead on nine under par. But three shots behind him lies 2014 champion Branden Grace, with four-time Alfred Dunhill Championship winner Charl Schwartzel seven shots back. Overnight leader Wil Besseling is also still in contention three shots off the lead.
“It doesn’t matter how many shots you are ahead of Charl and Branden. Charl can shoot six under on this course. This is a golf course where a four-shot swing can happen on any hole,” Larrazábal said of his lead.
It is Larrazábal’s deep love and admiration for this golf course and what this tournament represents that means he will never take anything for granted out here. Even when he made a double bogey on the treacherous par-three seventh – the result of a strategic error, he said – he accepted it with the respect he has for a golf course that is playing its toughest ever with the new grass laid down and the extensive improvements made to it.
“You know, it’s one thing to hit a bad shot, but when you make a strategic error, that’s painful. I did that on seven. But then the putts on eight and nine for par were important to keep my round going. I told myself I had a lot of birdies coming in and I took them.”
He made four straight birdies from the 10th, bogeyed the 14th and then claimed it back with a birdie on 15.
“It was a tough day out there. The wind was swirling and gusting, and with the tight flags it was very tough,” he said.
Grace agreed after his 70, taking him into the weekend on six under par.
“It was very tricky. On a grinding day like this you need to make those four- or five-foot putts for par and be happy with that, which I did. I still feel a round of six- or seven-under is out there, but when this course has its teeth out like this you need to stay patient and experience is key.”
Top-ranked South African amateur Jayden Schaper, a member of the GolfRSA National Elite squad, took full advantage of his invitation into this tournament and did well to make it through to the weekend on two over par.