Marc Warren jumped up nearly 40 spots to take over as top Scot at the halfway stage as compatriots Bradley Neil and David Drysdale scraped into the weekend in the South African Open thanks to the performances of three amateurs.
On a day when England’s Chris Paisley (65) and Frenchman Adrien Saddier (63) surged four shots clear of the field by getting to 13-under-par at Glendower Golf Club, European Tour newcomer Neil discovered how quickly fortunes can change at the top level.
The 21-year-old from Blairgowrie started the second round just two shots off the lead after an opening 67 but found himself having to par his final hole, the ninth, to stay in the event as he took 10 shots more in dropping back to level.
“I already know that no two days are the same in golf and that was obvious today,” said Neil. “I didn’t take my round yesterday for granted or anything like that. The difference was that I probably made a few more mistakes in general today, off the tee and into greens that didn’t cost me yesterday but did today.”
Sitting joint-68th, Neil and Drysdale made the cut on the strength of three South African amateurs – Matt Saulez, Kyle McClatchie and Garrick Higgo - being among the top 65 and ties in an event co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour.
“With everything that had happened (he followed an eagle at the 15th, his sixth, by dropping five shots around the turn before signing for three bogeys in a row on the back nine) knowing I then needed par to make the cut was obviously positive,” added Neil. “I did the same to myself in Mauritius, missing the cut there, but I’m obviously learning because I still managed to keep going.”
Drysdale, who finished in the top 10 behind Graeme Storm at the same venue 12 months ago, also survived by the skin of his teeth after a second 72. A bogey at the 16th left him in a sweat, with the projected cut moving to one-under at one stage before the Borderder lived to fight another day, too.
Warren, who’d opened with a 73, is sitting just outside the top 40 on two-under after signing for a 69, covering the last seven holes in three-under, in his first outing since the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November.
As Storm, who beat Rory McIlroy in a play-off to claim victory 12 months ago, ended his reign as champion ignominiously by missing the cut, compatriot Paisley stepped up his bid for a maiden win with an effort that contained eight birdies while Saddier, a Challenge Tour graduate, carded an eagle and seven birdies.
Leading the chase is South African Jacques Kruyswijk (67) while world No 30 Branden Grace (71) and two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen (67) are a shot further back along with American Chase Koepka (71) and Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent (66).
Elsewhere, European captain Thomas Bjorn was looking for his team to come out with all guns blazing in the fourballs after losing the opening foursomes 3.5-2.5 in the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia. “I suspect that we’ll go out tomorrow and be ready to play, and foursomes is a very different game,” said the Dane, who is using the event in Kuala Lumpur as preparation for Europe’s bid to try and win back the Ryder Cup in France later in the year.
On the amateur front, overnight leaders Scotland finished second behind Spain in the Moroccan International Boys/Girls event at Samanah in Marrakech while a tartan quartet made up of Curtis Cup hopeful Shannon McWilliam, Hannah McCook, Calum Fyfe and Euan Walker head into battle on Saturday in the opening round of the South American Amateur Championship in Argentina.