South Africans stay in contention at Masters

Charl Schwartzel looks over his chip from a bunker to the second green at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S. Picture: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Charl Schwartzel looks over his chip from a bunker to the second green at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S. Picture: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

South Africans clawed their way back into contention at the Masters golf tournament in Friday’s second round, with four of the five making it into the weekend rounds.

The only South African who will not be playing in the two final rounds of the first major of the year is 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, whose four-over on Friday, saw him finish on 11-over for the tournament – five behind the cut, which came in at six-over.

Charl Schwartzel, who won the Green Jacket in 2011, heads the South African contingent on two-over after the first two rounds as he carded a par 72 on Friday.

He lies in 16th place, six shots behind leaders Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Charley Hoffman.

Conditions at the Augusta National Golf Club were again very difficult on Friday as blustery winds put the golfers under pressure.

“I think anytime you play par on this course in these conditions, you are doing well,” said Schwartzel.

The Johannesburg-born golfer said that he believed he was still in a good position.

“It is really hard to avoid bogeys, but at the end of the day, on this course, if you are around on the weekend that is good. The tournament is far from over.”

The best round of the day for the South Africans belonged to 2010 Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, who dropped a shot on the last hole to finish one-under for the round and tie for 32nd with four-over.

“It went a lot better. It was tough again. I think we are going to have a very nasty Augusta again tomorrow and Sunday, I have a feeling the greens are going to be very firm and fast tomorrow.

“I did not make any stupid mistakes. I played solid, I played two bad tee shots on 17 and 18, but otherwise I was happy with my game. It was windy, it was tough, but I played nicely,” Oosthuizen said.

Ernie Els, who acknowledged that he might be playing his last Masters as his five-year exemption for winning the Open in 2012 expires this year, bogeyed the last two holes for a round of 75 to lie 19th on three-over.

The four-time major winner said playing the course in these conditions was like taking on the US Open and the Open rolled into one.

“You are playing against the wind, you are playing tough pin placements, really fast greens and a great golf course. Put all those things together and you have an unbelievable test.”

He was disappointed with his final two holes. “I did all the hard work throughout, so playing a bogey on the last two holes was a bit soft. But I am here for the weekend.”

Branden Grace played one of the few eagles of the day, finding the hole with his third shot on the par-five 15th.

Although he also dropped two shots on the final two holes, he managed to just keep his place in the field with a two-over round 74, to finish on six-over for the tournament.

The biggest names to fall by the wayside by missing the cut, were defending champion Danny Willet, as well as the 2016 Open champion Hendrik Stenson.

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