The duo are set to be paired together at Glendower Golf Club in Gauteng after reaching the halfway stage on nine-under-par, three shots behind Graeme Storm after the Englishman moved into top spot on the back of a course record-equalling 63 before a different storm saw play suspended for the day.
Both Drysdale and McIlroy just managed to finish their rounds before the hooter sounded, with the latter revealing after an up-and-down 68 – it contained just five pars – that he’d suffered breathing difficulties on the way round due to a back injury.
“I’m actually surprised I’m standing here. I thought about pulling out before even teeing off today,” said the four-time major winner, who was two-over for the day after four holes, covered seven holes around the turn in seven-under before finishing bogey-bogey. “I tweaked my back somehow and the first few shots today weren’t very comfortable and it still isn’t really comfortable. I can’t really take a deep breath because I’ve done something to my upper back. I’m going to go get some treatment now. Considering that, I played well, stuck at it and hopefully I can feel better tomorrow.”
While it wouldn’t be the first time they’d played together – they crossed paths when the Northern Irishman was a fledgling pro – Drysdale will certainly be hoping McIlroy can stay in the title hunt after the Cockburnspath man carded a 65 to move into contention for a maiden victory on the European Tour. His ball-striking earned praise from fellow Scot Andrew Coltart during his commentary for Sky Sports as Drysdale, who is playing in this event for the 15th time, signed for an eagle and five birdies in a flawless effort.
“Both days have been really solid,” said the 41-year-old. “Today I just made a couple more putts than yesterday. I’ve had four or five weeks off and not played much golf, having enjoyed a holiday down here. But it’s nice to see that the ball-striking hasn’t left me since Leopard Creek [where he tied for 11th in the Alfred Dunhill Championship last month], and now I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Storm, a former Amateur champion from Hartlepool, thought he had lost his playing privileges by an agonising 100 euros following the Portugal Masters in October before being handed a reprieve as American Patrick Reed failed to play the required number of events. Taking advantage in some style, Storm carded nine birdies in a blemish-free effort to sit two shots clear of home duo Trevor Fisher Jnr (68) and Jbe Kruger (67), as well as American Peter Uihlein (64)