Centurion - South Africa's top ranked Ashleigh Buhai remains the player to catch with 18 holes remaining in the Sunshine Ladies Tour Open at Irene Country Club.
A bogey-free five-under-par 67 on the opening day boosted Buhai to the top of the leaderboard and she continued her stunning start in the 2019 season-opener with another flawless performance on day two.
The Johannesburg professional will take a staggering seven-shot lead into the final round after a four-under 68 moved her to nine-under 135.
"Obviously I am very happy with my score, although I felt I played a lot better in the first round," said Buhai, who is gunning for her 10th title on the local circuit.
"You know, two weeks ago I was really glad the Sunshine Ladies Tour was starting a little later this year. I took a five week break after a long stretch on the LPGA Tour at the end of last year and I was so rusty. I worked hard in the past two weeks and it's great to see really positive results."
Buhai started the second round three shots clear. She extended her lead with a birdie at the par five second and kept her advantage intact with a further gain at eight.
"Coming into the round, I wanted to maintain that three-shot lead," she said. :I managed to do that with the two birdies on the front nine, but the back nine was a little iffy. I managed to scramble well to keep myself in it.
"I made a really good par-save at 10 after I hit it in the trees. I had to punch out and made the up-and-down for par from 60 metres out. I birdied the next hole and I stayed patient, because I knew I had some short holes coming where I could take advantage with wedges.
"I missed two greens, but I didn't feel that I hit bad shots. I kept it going with good pars. I hit a good shot into the 17th and lipped out for birdie, but I finally got rewarded with the birdie on 18."
Is she surprised to be leading by such a huge margin after two rounds?
"The course is playing relatively long after all the rain and the kikuyu is heavy," she said. "Although the greens are soft and you can fire at the flags, you have to keep it in play. I've missed very few fairways and greens and I’m still bogey-free after 36 holes, which is a first for me, but I think that's why I've pulled away from the field."
Benoni rookie Casandra Hall and former Ladies European Tour winner Anne-Lise Caudal from France join Buhai in Friday's leading group. Hall was even-par at the start of the round and got it four-under during her outward loop. The 2018 SA Amateur Women's Stroke Play champion made three bogeys on the bounce coming home, but a birdie-finish for a round of 70 moved her to two-under.
Caudal also returned a 70 to finish a further shot back.
"I'm looking forward to playing with Anne-Lise and Cass," said the world No 116. "Anne-Lise and I have known each since I first went to play the Ladies European Tour and we are good friends. She is very solid tee to green and I expect her to go low in the final round.
"We actually played in Tuesday's pro-am together. She is a great girl and a talented golfer and she can bomb the ball. She takes photos of my drives! She's played really well over the last two days and it’s nice to see her in the leading group in her first event as a rookie."
Top ranked Kajal Mistry leads the amateur race on five-over after rounds of 72 and 77.
Fellow GolfRSA Elite Squad player Symone Henriques will start the final round at six-under, while 16-year-old Pheletso Mota from the GolfRSA TDI Squad will be the youngest starter. The South African Golf Development Board member from Kroonstad bounced back after an opening 81 with a 74 to make the cut to 30 professionals and ties with one shot to spare.
Second round scores:
135 - Ashleigh Buhai 67 68
142 - Casandra Hall 72 70
143 - Anne-Lise Caudal (FRA) 73 70, Emie Peronnin (FRA) 71 72, Bonita Bredenhann (NAM) 70 73
144 - Lauren Taylor (ENG) 76 68, Pasqualle Coffa (NED) 76 68, Marion Duvernay (FRA) 73 71, Stacy Bregman 72 72
145 - Kiran Matharu (ENG) 75 70, Ivanna Samu 72 73
146 - Lejan Lewthwaite 76 70
149 - Tandi Mc Callum 76 73, Laurette Maritz 73 76, Brittney-Fay Berger 73 76, Kajal Mistry AMA 72 77
150 - Alexandra Lennartsson (SWE) 78 72, Flora Peuch (FRA) 76 74, Hannah Arnold (USA) 74 76, Symone Henriques AMA 70 80
151 - Michelle Swanepoel 76 75, Lora Assad 76 75, Bertine Faber 72 79
152 - Nobuhle Dlamini (SWZ) 77 75, Charlotte Austwick (ENG) 78 74, Alana van Greuning 76 76, Monique Smit 75 77, Dominique Jacobs 75 77, Crizelda van Niekerk 74 78
153 - Lindi Coetzee 74 79, Larissa Du Preez AMA 73 80
155 - Kim Williams 76 79, Pheletso Mota AMA 81 74
156 - Alison Muirhead AMA (SCO) 78 78, Julie Berton (FRA) 79 77
Missed the cut:
157 - Lenanda van der Watt 77 80, Georgia Oboh (NGA) 79 78, Kaylan Boshoff AMA 84 73
158 - Kim Turgut AMA 80 78, Nadia van der Westhuizen AMA 85 73
159 - Nicole Becker 78 81, Shawnelle de Lange 80 79
160 - Kelsey Nicholas 80 80, Sunelle von Molendorff 82 78
161 - Clara Pietri (SUI) 77 84, Gabriella Venter AMA 80 81, Siviwe Duma 82 79, Rachel Raastad (NOR) 82 79, Stephanie Barbaglia AMA 86 75
162 - Yolanda Duma 80 82
163 - Carmen Taljaard AMA 80 83, Katia Shaff AMA (AUT) 80 83
164 - Kim de Klerk AMA 83 81
165 - Chiara Contomathios 81 84, Teagan Lubbe AMA 84 81
166 - Lynette Fourie 83 83
167 - Leslie Grandet (MAD) 87 80
171 - Chevonne Vergeer 86 85
176 - Tijana Kraljevic 86 90, Rachelle Cardinal 92 84
178 - Liedeka de Klerk 85 93RTD - Catherine Lau 77 RTD, Lee-Anne Pace 72 RTD