Scott Jamieson stayed in contention and was joined in the top 10 by Richie Ramsay as Frenchman Victor Dubuisson maintained his return to form by claiming a two-shot lead at the halfway stage in the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.
Dubuisson, a Ryder Cup hero for Paul McGinley at Gleneagles in 2014, was in danger of losing his European Tour card before finishing third behind Tyrrell Hatton as the Englishman successfully defended the Dunhill Links title in Scotland last month.
Now the enigmatic 27-year-old has a third title triumph in his sights in an event he came close to winning a year ago, claiming third spot behind Alex Noren after the Swede closed with a stunning 63 on the Gary Player Country Club course at Sun City.
On a day when play was interrupted for two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon due to lightning, Dubuisson backed up his opening 68 with a 70 for a six-under-par total. He dropped a shot at the last following a clumsy chip, but an impressive display so far has earned a bit of breathing space at the top of the leaderboard in the $7.5 million Rolex Series event.
His nearest challengers are Edinburgh-based former world No 1 Lee Westwood and South African Darren Fichardt, who only got into the field at the last minute after Matthew Southgate, a member of the English team that set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest hole of golf in Turkey last week, pulled out due to an injury.
“I just try to play as good as I can each day, day after day,” said Dubuisson, who has made a habit of finding his form at this time of the year. He’s win the Turkish Airlines Open twice, recorded two top-fives in this event and three top-fives in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“Especially on this course, you’ve got to have a very solid game to do some good scoring. The driver is the key if you want to play well and today I didn’t miss many fairways, maybe one or two, and I played very solidly in the wind.”
Sitting 73rd in the Race to Dubai, Dubuisson needs to be in the top 60 on Sunday night to achieve his main goal this week. “It’s to play Dubai because it’s been five years in a row that I’ve played [in that event],” he said.
As overnight leader Bernd Wiesberger carded a five-over 77 to drop out of contention, Jamieson fought hard for a 73 to sit joint fourth on three-under. The 33-year-old, who needs a top-15 finish to have any chance of getting into the final event of the season, started with a birdie, dropped shots at the next two before starting for home with a brace of birdies. He then ran up a 6 at the long 14th before also taking a bogey at the last.
Ramsay made two eagles – at the 10th, his first, and second – as he jumped up 29 spots to joint-10th on the back of a two-under 70, boosting his hopes of finishing the season in the top 20 on the money-list to get into some of the WGCs next year.
David Drysdale, who had a 73 to sit joint-24th on one-over, is next best among the Scots, followed by Marc Warren (75 for three-over) and Stephen Gallacher (75 for five-over).
Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood shot a 74 to slip to three-over, leaving the Englishman with the remotest of chances of clinching the title with a win this weekend. That will be a relief to closest challenger Justin Rose, who chose to sit out this event following his back-to-back wins in China and Turkey.