Former South African Open champion Hennie Otto felt like sticking his putter in the microwave after it took him 15 holes to break par in the second round of the 104th South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club on Friday. The Boksburg native nail a six-footer for birdie at the par five for his first red number and almost did a happy dance when he boxed another short one for birdie at the par-four 16th. “I might have to stick the thing in the microwave,” Otto joked after he signed for a one-under-par 71 and a share of 24th at one under 143.
“I had at least six birdie chances inside six feet and they all missed. It’s frustrating when you are striking the ball so well and you are steering clear of the rough. On the other hand, who is complaining? With this rough, par is king this week,” he said. Otto had just one blemish on his card, a bogey at the par-four 18th. “I dropped a shot because I set myself up for the bogey when I hit it into the left rough. I didn’t have too bad a lie. I chipped out, which is really your only option and had a four-footer to save par, but the putt lipped out. Those things happen. But when you are giving yourself really good scoring opportunities and you don’t convert, it can become a long day at the office,” he said.
The three-time European Tour winner had four birdies in his six holes to take the early lead on Thursday, but squandered the advantage with wayward tee shots and finished with a 72 and a share of 41st on even-par. Otto changed his approach and it paid off. Not only did he vault 17 spots in the right direction, but the Anahita golfer lags only seven strokes behind tournament leader, Andy Sullivan from England. “I missed three fairways in the first round; that’s three guaranteed bogeys right there. You simply can’t afford to go offline. If you miss the fairway, it better be by a land mile. The other two were soft bogeys, but I knew I had to avoid the rough if I wanted to challenge on the weekend,” he said.
The reigning Italian Open champion won the 2011 SA Open at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate and was a strong contender last year. He held the outright lead at the 12th, but a bogey at the par-five 15th and double bogey at the par-four 16th put paid to his challenge and he tied for second with compatriot Jbe’ Kruger. Otto believes there are two low rounds to be had at the weekend, but he may have to fry the putter.
Sullivan and Kruger shared the overnight lead on six under 66, but while the Englishman held on to pole position with a 70, the South African imploded with an 80 and had a long, nervy wait to see if he would make the weekend. Kruger breathed a sigh of relief when the cut fell at two-over-par, leaving 66 players to contest the final round. Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, also a contender last year, turned a topsy turvy round into a great 69 with a birdie, eagle birdie finish and he will start the third round one off the pace.
Unheralded South African pair Colin Nel and JJ Senekal carded respective rounds of 70 and 67 to grab a share of third on six under with Dane Lasse Jensen, who registered a 71. Four-time Major Ernie Els showed great courage under fire to recover from a bogey at the eighth and triple bogeys either side of the turn to book his berth in the starting line-up on Saturday. The five-time champion birdied the 13th and 14th and parred his way home to a 77 to tie for 34th on even-par.
Photo: Hennie Otto
Photo credit: Catherine Kotze / SASPA