Ernie has a tough day

2004-12-03 21:47
Sun City - The accurate irons and white-hot putter in the armour of Stuart Appleby had the decisive vote in Friday's second day of the Nedbank Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club here.

The Australian will tee off as the sole frontrunner on Saturday after scoring an excellent 69 (par 72).

Appleby on Friday became the first player in this year's tournament to break through the magical 70 mark. His score after the first two rounds is 139, beating par by 5.

The man chasing him will be Lee Westwood who added a deserving 70 to the same score on Thursday. One shot back, at 141, are Retief Goosen (South Africa) and the friendly Zimbabwean Nick Price (71 and 70) who won the Challenge three times before.

Ernie Els will have to launch a major fight-back if he wants to be in contention. His score of 74 on the second day, 2 over par, is proof that this course is punishing inaccuracy very harshly.

The world's player number two is on par after the first two rounds - five shots off the pace. And a sliced tee shot on the 11th hole (par 4) was responsible when it went deep into the wilderness.

The ball was unplayable and he had to incur a penalty. From the point where the ball was dropped he again pushed the ball into the thick rough.

Faux pas

From this position he got the ball onto the grass, but then the Big Easy made another faux pas when his ball landed in the bunker just short of the putting green. Els had to enter a 7 on his card for the par 4 hole.

He made par on holes 12 to 18, but the three extra shots he incurred on the 11th may still haunt him.

Goosen could also have been in a much better position. Up to the 11th he was neck and neck with Appleby at 5 under par. But golf has never claimed to be predictable.

At the 17th and 18th holes he conceded shots after scoring birdies at the same holes in the first round.

Appleby was quite philosophical about his round on Friday. "You accept the good luck that comes your way. Today I played well with my irons and my putting was good. "A few of them went in from a distance of three to four metres. That is the way it goes on the day. If I can continue like this I stand a reasonably good chance of staying ahead."

Have 'lost the urge to compete'

Indeed. When luck smiles at you, you grab it. Price will confirm this. Before the tournament he did not rate himself. He ascribed that to the fact that since August he has only played in two big tournaments.

"I have lost the urge to compete," the popular Zimbabwean said.

"To spend more time with my family is my priority. This is the best I have played in a long time."

The drama will unfold further on Saturday!

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