St. Francis - He closed with a flurry of four birdies at the St Francis Links on Thursday, and that was good enough to give Erik van Rooyen a share of the second-round lead of the R600 000 Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament.
He carded his second consecutive four-under-par 68 to share the lead with Keith Horne, who signed for a one-under 71. And that was good enough for a five-stroke edge over third-placed Shaun Smith, who was one-over 73 for the day and on three-under for the tournament.
"It was a lot of fun finishing that way," said Van Rooyen of his birdie flourish. "I hit it really well the whole day, but the putter got hot near the end and it feels good to come in with a 68 again."
Van Rooyen, who plays out of Douglas, has a pair of sixth-place finishes from May in this year’s Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, putting him in 32nd spot, but his season has been frustrating because he has not been able to keep some high scores at bay after some good starts earlier in the year.
"Usually, I start well and then kind of dwindle off a bit, so it’s rewarding to have two good rounds in a row, and I hope to have some more of the same tomorrow [Friday}," he said.
His would have been the low round of the day but for Anthony Michael’s five-under-par 67, which was strange given the benign conditions at the St Francis Links and the pyrotechnics of Horne’s course-record-setting exploits in the first round, when he carded a seven-under-par 67.
"It was a little strange out there," said Horne. "The wind wasn’t strong, but there was enough of it to make a difference at times. But the truth is I just didn’t play as well as I did yesterday. I was tentative on the putts, and that made it more difficult for me to score."
Van Rooyen was understandably thrilled with the way the course treated him. "It’s as good as it gets," he said.
That kind of positive approach will stand him in good stead if he is to push for his maiden Sunshine Tour victory.
"I’ve been stronger mentally recently," he said. "Earlier in the year, I’d be on top of the leaderboard and I’d have the jitters, but this week I’ve been staying calm and keeping it together mentally, and things have been turning out alright.
"I’m more experienced now. The jitters are always there, but if you can stay calm and just take it one shot at a time, you can end up with four birdies in a row like I did today.
"And those top-10s helped my confidence. I feel like I belong."
If he remains as consistent as he has been so far, it will be a tough chase for his pursuers -- but Horne is very experienced and will provide a stern test of Van Rooyen’s new-found confidence.