CHRIS Doak reckons he could still be in with a chance of a maiden European Tour victory this weekend – if organisers of the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa allowed him to only play the back nine at Leopard Creek.
Appropriately, perhaps, at a venue that sits on the southern border of the Kruger National Park with black mambas and puff adders slithering about, the 35-year-old has spent the opening two days seeming as though he’s playing snakes and ladders.
In 36 holes, Doak has registered a classic mix of good and bad – two eagles and 13 birdies being offset by a quadruple-bogey, four double-bogeys and three bogeys.
The par-3 fifth has proved particularly problematic, with four shots in total having been spilled there so far. The quadruple-bogey, an 8, came at the ninth yesterday and, having limped out in 41, he was in danger of an early exit.
The Doak of old would probably have missed the cut but not the one capable of coping with setbacks these days. For the second day running, he covered the back nine in five-under 32 to sit in a tie for 25th at the halfway stage on two-under.
“Well now – that was interesting today,” admitted the Greenock man afterwards. “Indeed, I’m going to ask if I can just play the back nine twice tomorrow!”
“I hit a few loose shots when I was out of position, but I’m really happy about how my mental strength is improving in these situations,” he added.
In contrast to last week’s South African Open, when six Scots made the cut in the opening event on the 2014 European Tour schedule, only Doak and David Drysdale are still standing in this event. Drysdale, who has made a habit of giving a good account of himself in South Africa having twice finished third in the Joburg Open, is on course to do likewise again.
With only birdies and bogeys on his opening two cards, the 38-year-old from Cockburnspath is tied for 12th on four-under – four shots behind the joint-leaders, defending champion Charl Schwartzel and on-form Dane Morten Orum Madsen.
For the second day running, Drysdale, who rarely misses a cut these days, birdied the 18th, where South African Darren Fichardt ran up a quintuple-bogey ten to miss the cut by a shot after arriving at the tee just outside the top ten.
Schwartzel stepped up his title challenge with a flawless 68. It moved him alongside Madsen, who bounced back from a double-bogey 7 at the 13th with three birdies in the last five holes for a 71.
The pair lead Soren Hansen and Ross Fisher by a shot after they carded matching 65s, with Richard Finch one of two players a shot further back.
Four birdies in the last seven holes proved too little, too late for Peter Whiteford as he missed the cut by a shot, the same fate suffered by Jamie McLeary after he ran up a double-bogey 7 at the 15th.
Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy shot a second-round 65 to give himself a chance of winning the first trophy of a forgettable year at the Emirates Australian Open. He trailed home favourite Adam Scott, who followed up his spectacular opening 62 with a 70, by two shots at the midway point at the Royal Sydney.