Defending champ Furyk in front at Nedbank

BY | Southern Africa Tour | 2006 Nedbank Golf Challenge | Round Two | 02 Dec 2006

Jim Furyk played a round of perfect precision, 33,33 – 66, to take a four-stroke lead after the second round of the 2006 Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.

To see Furyk without his cap his conservative dress and bald pate make him look like a banker; but in the context of this golf tournament not of the financial kind but of the betting variety.

The way Furyk handled himself in the lightning interrupted second round had the gamblers who frequent the city of the sun nominating him as a sure thing to retain the title he won last year.

Furyk may be slow and painstaking but his golf is flawless. It is doubtful whether there is a straighter driver of the ball in the world at the moment and when it comes to the gentler areas of the game, chipping, pitching, putting or splashing out of sand, he is the consummate professional.

Furyk has now completed 36 holes without dropping a single shot while knocking in 10 birdie putts.

He is on a two-round total of 134 to lead by four strokes from overnight leader Henrik Stenson, who showed a well-honed fighting spirit to overcome a tentative start to still card a one-under 71, with a pair of South Africans, Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel, next on five under 139.

Els finally got it going again at Sun City with a five-under 67 but it could have been so much better had it not been for his dropping shots at the 10th and 14th – the two par-fives on the back nine which he had birdied on the first day.

Significantly though, Els seemed to regain the rhythm in his putting stroke and it may yet turn out to be crucial that he was able to close out his round with a good up-down out of the greenside bunker at the 17th and another save, after a 15-footer found the hole, after he had driven into the bunker at the last.

Schwartzel may be the rookie in the field but he has not been overawed at all. He opened with a 70 and on Friday he improved to a 69 in spite of dropping a shot at the last after returning to the course to complete his round after lightning had forced the players off the course for two hours.

Retief Goosen (70), Padraig Harrington (71) and Trevor Immelman (69) are still within six shots of the lead so an exciting weekend’s play is in the offing – especially as those trailing Furyk know that they will have to go out and get him because he seems unlikely to let them back in.

When the lighting started to flash around the Pilanesberg, Els had just completed his 67 and Furyk had just hit his best drive of the day on the 14th.

And what a statement the American made as he returned to the course to complete his birdie with an excellent up-and-down from the sand at the long hole before showing why it is going to be so difficult to knock him off the top of the leaderboard with superb par-savers at the 16th and 18th and a beautifully played 17th hole.

Bunkered at the short 16th he splashed to within centimetres of the hole and at the 18th he made up for a miss-hit second by pitching dead to save his four.

Furyk’s play was all the more exceptional when you take into account some of the treachery awaiting the unwary – as shown by Colin Montgomery running up a five-over 9 at the 11th and David Howell and Sergio Garcia stacking up three-over 7s at the eighth and 13th respectively.

Source – Nedbank Challenge

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