Lawrie leading at halfway mark in Sun City

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Paul Lawrie has a chance at an ideal end to a strong comeback year after the Scot’s three-under-par 69 gave him the halfway lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.

Lawrie had just one bogey on another tough day for players on the challenging Gary Player Country Club course and made four birdies for a four-under-par total of 140. Lawrie had a one-shot lead over Ryder Cup team-mate Martin Kaymer heading to the weekend and a chance at a third win this year. They were the only players to break 70 in the second round.

“The course is demanding,” Lawrie said. “You have to drive the ball very well and keep the ball in play to give yourself a chance to get it close to the pin. It’s a great golf course. So far, so good, but a long way to go.”

Lawrie benefited from staying well clear of the tough rough and dealt well with the breeze. His approach to within five feet on the 17th set up the last of four birdies for the 1999 Open champion, who has won twice in 2012 after going nearly a decade without a victory before last year’s Open de Andalucia.

“I came back here a more experienced player, certainly a better tee to green player than I was in 1999,” said Lawrie, who last played at Sun City the year he won the Open. “I am a better player than I was back then.”

Kaymer – a former world No 1 –had five birdies in his 69 and only consecutive bogeys on the eighth and ninth kept him back. “Three-under is a very good score on this golf course,” a satisfied Kaymer said afterwards.

Charl Schwartzel recovered from a bogey on the second to go around in 71 for a share of third at one-under with Francesco Molinari (71), Louis Oosthuizen (72) and overnight co-leader Bill Haas (73) – two behind Kaymer and three off the pace.

Defending champion Lee Westwood, meanwhile, was level par in his quest to become the first player to win three straight Nedbank titles.

The world No 6 made two double bogeys in his second round and did well to only bogey the 14th after ending up in an island of deep rough in the middle of a bunker.

Only a birdie at the last kept Westwood from slipping into plus numbers in his title defence.

Haas came back well on the back nine after double-bogeying his first hole and bogeying two more to turn at 40. The American made three birdies coming home for a 73 and a one-under 143 alongside local hopes Schwartzel and Oosthuizen and Italy’s Molinari.

Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts crashed from a share of the overnight lead to a tie for tenth in the 12-player field after successive sevens – one a double bogey and one a triple – on the second and third. He also had two other bogeys for a six-over 78 to slump to four over. Only Justin Rose was behind him.

World No 4 Rose also had a triple-bogey seven on the treacherous par-4 third and four other bogeys to go seven over for the day and slip to eight over in total. Rose has followed the course-record 62 he shot in the final round of the World Tour Championship with rounds of 73 and 79 in South Africa.