Strauss was pleased to keep command of the season-finale, given the tougher set-up at Millvale Private Retreat compared to round one, when she posted a three under 69. The 24-year-old novice says: ‘The set-up was a lot tougher today and the greens definitely firmed out a bit. It didn’t actually feel all that tough when I was playing, but looking back at the round there were definitely some tricky pin placements.’ Strauss birdied the first, dropped the second but rallied with birdies at five and six to stay in front.
She reeled in further gains at 11, 14 and 17 to negate the mid-round stumble but surrendered a final shot at the tough par four 18th. Strauss says: ‘If someone told me this morning that I could have a five shot lead, I would have jumped at it and run away. To be perfectly honest, the bogeys I made were not really due to the set-up. I made silly mistakes and I had a couple of three putts that threw me off my game. I managed to hole some birdie putts on the back nine to get back on track. I didn’t feel as comfortable out there as in the first round, but it looked like everyone was struggling. I had a bit of a tough time, but at least I managed to stay ahead of the pack. A five shot lead is about as good as it gets and I’m looking forward to see how I can finish it off.’ Chase to the Investec Cup leader Lee-Anne Pace neutralised five bogeys with a trio of birdies for a 74 to grab a share of fifth on three over 147, but the nine-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion will have to pull out the stops on Saturday.
Her biggest rival for the lion’s share of the R1-million Bonus Pool, number two ranked Monique Smit, showed tremendous tenacity to reverse a potentially disastrous start to her second round to sign for a 76. She sits in fourth at 146. The 2016 Ladies Tshwane Open champion dropped six shots in the first five holes – including a double bogey at the fourth – but covered some of the damage with a hat-trick of birdies before the turn and played the back nine in one over.
Smit, who needs just 70 points to deny Pace a third successive Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies title, says: ‘I had a bit of an out of body experience over the first five holes. It felt like I was watching myself play and I didn’t know what that Monique was doing. My caddie Jax told me that I deserved to be here because I earned my spot in the field and to pull myself toward myself, so I did. I thought the set-up was really tough. You can see that nearly all the players went backwards, but I am incredibly proud of the way I fought to keep myself in the running. I’m six shots off the pace, but it could have easily been 16 after the start I made.’
Photo credit: Sunshine Ladies Tour