Branden Grace opens up five-shot lead at Alfred Dunhill Championship

Branden Grace © Getty Images
Branden Grace © Getty Images

Branden Grace continued his birdie assault on the Leopard Creek Country club as he extended his lead at the halfway stage of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The South African could not quite match the heights of his sizzling opening 62, but a seven-birdie 66 swept him to 16 under par and gave him a five-shot advantage over Francesco Molinari.

Grace started his second round at the 10th and he wasted little time in increasing his overnight three-stroke lead as he birdied three of his first six holes before adding another at the 18th to turn in 33.

The 26-year-old began the front nine with another birdie, but a rare errant tee-shot at the short fifth led to his first bogey of the tournament, although he hit back at the sixth and closed with a nice three at the ninth to set a clubhouse target that was never under threat.

“The ball striking wasn’t as good as yesterday but I kept it going,” said Grace, who has not won a European Tour title since winning four in his remarkable 2012 season.

“There was a little bit of a slip there due to a lack of concentration but it happens. I’ve been hitting it good and kept on hitting good putts out there.

“This is a golf course that suits me and if I keep hitting everything in play the way I have been the first two days then it should be a good weekend.”


Molinari emerged as Grace’s closest challenger as he carded six birdies and an eagle in an impressive 65 – the low round of the second day at Malelane.

The Italian birdied the first two and picked up four shots in as many holes after the turn after he followed birdies at 10 and 12 with a superb eagle-three at the long 13th.

Molinari blotted his card only once at the 17th, but he rolled in his sixth birdie putt of the round at the last to reach 11 under, one ahead of Tjaart Van Der Walt.

“I played really well today,” said Molinari. “I holed some really good putts – the last four or five holes could have been better, but seven under is always a good round.”

Van Der Walt cost himself a share of second with a bogey at the ninth – his last – as he posted back-to-back 67s, while last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge winner Danny Willett is a further stroke adrift.

The Yorkshireman got to 10 under after following an eagle at the 18th with birdies at the second and fifth, but a double-bogey five at the seventh set him back although he replied positively with a birdie at eight.

Willett shares fourth with highly-rated Dane Lucas Bjerregaard and South African Shaun Norris, who both also eagled the 18th and returned creditable rounds of 67.

Louis Oosthuizen will go into the weekend 10 shots behind Grace after he birdied two of the last three holes to salvage a 69, while two-time defending champion Charl Schwartzel ruined a four-birdie card with a double-bogey at the fifth as a 70 left him outside the top 20 on five under.

Sky Sports

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