Ritchie extends Zim Open lead

HARARE - Defending champion JC Ritchie now enjoys a four-shot lead at the top of the Old Mutual Zimbabwe Open golf tournament leaderboard after another superb six-under 66 during yesterday’s second round.

Ritchie, who is now on 12-under 132, had signed off for another 66 after the first round which gave him a one-shot lead on the first day.

The South African maintained his composure yesterday on a tough day when most golfers that had been in the top 10 after 18 holes failed to follow it up.

Just like on Thursday, Ritchie again shot seven birdies but a bogey at the par five number 16 means that he left the ajar for the chasing pack going into the weekend.

The 2017 champion admitted that it had been a difficult second round but was surprised by the way he kept on making good shots.

“Today was a little bit tougher but for some reason I was a bit calmer than yesterday. I hit some really good shots today but I did not capitalise on all of them but I managed to scramble a bit on some holes,” Ritchie said after his second round.

“The hard greens did not make it easier on the back nine but I putted really nice so that helped a lot. The surfaces are really nice if you can get it in a good area about 10 feet, you will have a good chance of making it.

“It’s more the second shots that are getting tougher and tougher to hit especially if you are coming out of the rough.”

Jaco Ahlers was pretty much in hot form as he finished the second round just one shot off the Royal Harare course record of nine-under 63 with a well-played eight-under 64 which saw him rise to second place on the leaderboard.

Ahlers is now eight-under 136 following his level par 72 in the first round. Byrce Easton is also tied for second place following a five-under 67 to add to his three-under 69 from Thursday.

Ritchie knows that the four-shot lead he has at the moment is not much of a cushion so he hopes to maintain the same form under pressure in the next 36 holes.

“I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing; I’ve got a birdie count that I’m chasing so I just have to make as many birdies as I can,” he said.

Meanwhile, five Zimbabweans have made the cut to play in the last two rounds of the country’s premier golf tournament.

Mark Williams is not far off the leading pack as he is on five-under 139 while Robson Chinoi is a further shot behind on four-under 140.

Trainos Muradzikwa and Ryan Cairns are on two-under 142 while Marc Cayeux finished the second round on one-under 143.

Williams was satisfied with his second round after carding a four-under 68 to go with his one-under 71 from the first round.

“Today I just stayed a little beat patient, I hadn’t played the par five brilliantly all week and I was level par at the turn,” he said.

“I just kept on telling myself that if I just stayed patient everything would come out through. I then managed to birdie the third hole which is the 12th.

“I then made three birdies and an eagle in four holes and I was five-under so that’s where my whole tournament has been but unfortunately I made a bogey on 8 when I was coming in.”        

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