IT’S ONLY the first event but, with six out of eight safely progressing to the final two rounds, the South Arican Open has signalled a promising start to the 2014 European Tour schedule for the Scottish contingent.
Exactly a week after winning back his card at the Qualifying School in Spain, Alastair Forsyth wasted no time finding his feet again on the top circuit as he carded a six-under-par 66 in the second round at Glendower Golf Club in Gauteng.
It lifted the 37-year-old into a tie for 19th on 138 and, though he has six shots to make up on the joint-leaders – home favourite Charl Schwartzel and Italian Marco Crespi – Forsyth has made the start he was looking for.
“It was good to carry on the good form from last week,” the two-times European Tour winner told The Scotsman. “I was very steady tee to green, giving myself a lot of chances. I missed a couple of short ones so, being a typical greedy golfer, it could have been one or two better!”
He was three-under after just two holes thanks to a birdie-eagle start, gave one of those shots back at the fifth, but then bagged four birdies in a flawless back nine of 32. “It looks like a top-five here will be my only way into next week,” added Forsyth of him currently sitting as eighth reserve for the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
Greenock’s Chris Doak, who is already safely in that line-up after finishing in the top 110 in last season’s Race to Dubai, sits a shot behind Forsyth on five-under after a second-round 68 that contained five birdies.
“I’ve been desperate to get playing again almost from the time I finished my 2013 campaign in Australia last month,” said the former Tartan Tour No 1. “I get easily bored when I’m at home and start falling out with the missus or shouting at the dog.
“While I was happy in the end to hang on to my card, I started last season aiming to try and get into the top 60 in the Race to Dubai and that’s the target again this season. I definitely taught myself something towards the end of last season. Pressure is just a tag. The formula is how your head works and I finally found that out.”
Peter Whiteford headed into the third round sitting alongside Doak after a 68. It was a roller-coaster ride that contained seven birdies, a double-bogey and three bogeys.
South African-based Scot Doug McGuigan (70) also progressed comfortably to the weekend on three-under, as did Jamie McLeary (68) and David Drysdale (71) in a 14-strong group on two-under. McLeary, playing in his first European Tour event as a card holder, bagged an eagle and four birdies in his first ten holes.
“I played really poorly so to make the cut was good,” said McLeary. “I don’t play my best golf at altitude, so to grind it out and make it on the number was good. I think I’ll play much better when the events get back nearer to sea level.”
It left Craig Lee (72 for two-over) and Scott Jamieson (75 for four-over) as the only two members of the Tartan Army to make an early exit, though Lee did gain a measure of compensation when he won the European Tour’s Shot of the Month for October. His eagle at the 16th at Lake Malaren in Shanghai in the BMW Masters was the prize-winning blow.
Former Masters champion Schwartzel looked the man to beat heading into the weekend at Gauteng, having stormed to the turn in 29 – he had five birdies and an eagle – en route to a 65 and a share of the lead with Crespi, who finished third in last week’s Qualifying School.