Schwartzel shoots 61 at Joburg Open

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa fired a blistering second-round 61 for a share of the halfway lead at the rain-affected Joburg Open on Friday.

Schwartzel had 10 birdies and no bogeys on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to move level with Jamie Elson and Garth Mulroy at 13-under-par 129 – a shot clear of the chasers.

England’s Elson holed five straight birdies on the longer East Course on his way to a 7-under 64. Mulroy also shot 64 on the East, mixing an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys.

Thomas Aiken, James Kingston and Tyrone Mordt were tied for second on 12 under after rain caused a near-three-hour delay, leaving 27 players to complete their second rounds on Saturday morning.

Players alternate courses over the first two days at the European and Sunshine Tours event, with the final two rounds played on the East Course.

Play was finally called off for fading light with a handful of players – including Welshman Stuart Manley – still playing. Manley was 9-under through 15 for a tie for 11th.

Schwartzel, the highest-ranked player at the tournament at No. 32, raced into contention for a successful title defense and the $266,730 winner’s check with five birdies either side of the turn for his 10-under round.

"It was a fantastic round today," Schwartzel said. "It really fell into place and I hit some great tee shots and iron shots, and I used just about every opportunity I had on the greens."

Elson birdied Nos. 5-9 and collected shots at the par-4 11th and par-5 18th to set the early pace on the tougher East Course, before Mulroy and Schwartzel joined him on 13 under.

The Englishman’s front-nine run was interrupted by the weather, before he returned to pick up two more shots coming home.

"It’s not ever nice to be stuck, especially when I had some momentum going," he said. "I hit a few balls on the range before the restart and my rhythm was all over the place, so it was great to make a birdie in the last two holes."

Aiken had an up and down second round, his eight birdies tempered by three bogeys to stay in a tie for fourth.

Kingston carded a 62 to leap 36 places up the leaderboard. He would have equaled Schwartzel’s superb 61 on the West Course if not for a missed par putt on the last for his only dropped shot of the day.

Tyrone Mordt, the co-overnight leader with South African compatriot Martin Maritz, added a 68 on the East Course to his opening 62.

Maritz had bogeys on Nos. 14, 15, and 16, on the supposedly easier West Course, to slip from a tie for 1st to a share of 7th on 11 under with fellow South African Branden Grace.

Grace was one of the last players to finish his round and signed off in style with an eagle three on the 551-yard (504-meter) par-5 18th on the East Course.

Scotland’s David Drysdale, one of just two non-South Africans in the top 10 along with Elson, went bogey-free with six birdies on the East for a 6-under 65 and a 10-under total of 132 – tied for ninth with Allan Versfeld.

Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, who last won a tournament in 2008, was tied for 54th on 4-under 138 – which was likely to be just good enough to make the cut.