Zander Lombard was a mixture of nerves and determination as he teed it up on Friday morning alongside two of Sun City’s greatest, but by the end of the day the Nedbank Golf Challenge debutant had left them both in his wake as he powered to the top of the second-round leaderboard with a magnificent seven-under-par round of 65.
Lombard’s impressive 68 on the first day meant he was drawn in the second-last three-ball on Friday, off at 10.39am alongside defending champion Lee Westwood and Ernie Els, both former world number ones and both boasting a record three Nedbank Golf Challenge titles.
The 24-year-old started badly as he bogeyed the par-four first hole, but it was smooth sailing thereafter as he collected six birdies and an eagle at the 10th hole in a round that overnight leader Louis Oosthuizen described as better than his own 63 on the opening day.
“It’s definitely up there with my best days on a golf course. There were obviously nerves on the first few holes, playing with legends like Ernie and Lee, but I settled down quite quickly with a birdie on the second after starting with a bogey. From then on it was all positive and I really enjoyed the round. My caddy Steve Tobby did a wonderful job keeping me in the moment.
“We just tried to make birdies on every hole, I tried to be aggressive and positive and not worry about any leaderboards. I placed the ball well which is what was needed with the course definitely drying out and there being a bit of carry and run. I was able to place myself on the right side of the holes and made a few putts. The wind was really blustery yesterday but today I felt I could trust my distances better,” Lombard said.
Oosthuizen himself struggled to match his superhuman effort of the first round, when he dazzled despite suffering from kidney stones, as the adrenaline and mental focus just weren’t there on Friday.
But South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer held position and kept himself very much in contention in second place, two strokes behind Lombard.
“It was just fatigue, especially on the last seven holes or so. I didn’t play great, I struggled to get my irons close enough and didn’t really have good opportunities for birdies. It was a day for just getting around the course, it was always going to be tough following a 63. I could feel I wasn’t on song and I just tried not to get down on myself. So I was just focused on getting through the round and not playing myself out of contention,” Oosthuizen said.
Thomas Detry, second overnight on six-under-par, was content to sprinkle his second-round 71 with five birdies, four bogeys, an eagle on the 10th and a double-bogey on the 17th when he almost put two in the water off the tee.
“It’s a tough course and anything can happen. I played some really good golf, I was four-under but made a bogey on 15, brought it back with a birdie on 16, and then on 17 it could have been a high number there. But I limited the damage with a double-bogey and I was a bit unlucky on 18. But it’s golf and we just move on and see tomorrow,” he said.