A flawless nine-under-par 63 lifted CJ du Plessis into pole position at the 36-hole mark of the IGT Tour’s seventh Race to Asian Q-School at ERPM Golf Club on Tuesday.
The commanding display took the Limpopo golfer to 10 under 134, two shots clear of fellow Sunshine Tour campaigner Okkie Strydom, who signed for a seven-under-65.
Du Plessis was five off the pace after an opening 71, but shortened the gap on the frontrunners with an eagle at the par-five second and birdies at the fourth, fifth and eighth holes.
The GFG Academy golfer extended his advantage with birdies at the 10th and 13th, and gains at the 16th and 17th holes left him at the top of the summit.
“I hit the ball really well in both rounds, but the first round was a putting disaster,” he said.
“I’ve been struggling with my putting, so I used a new putter in the first round. It went straight into the dustbin after three three-putts and went back to my old faithful.”
The trusted Scotty Cameron Newport 2.0 delivered and the 23-year-old was delighted with the result.
“I had 28 putts and only missed one green, so I’m definitely happy. I still left a few out there, but I don’t feel frustrated.
“You can feel negative pressure when you hit it close and expect to make every putt and it can go sideways quickly. You just need to stay patient and take your breaks where they come.”
The former top amateur cut his teeth on the IGT Tour in 2012 and enjoyed three runner-up finishes. He broke through for his first win at the 2013 Race to Q-School just weeks before he earned a card for the Sunshine Tour.
“I was well prepared for the Sunshine Tour after my season on the IGT Tour, but the rookie year was incredibly tough,” said the Polokwane pro, who ended his rookie season ranked 90th.
“It was one long stretch of qualifiers, but whenever I made it, I made money. It’s going a lot better this season. I tied for fourth at the Vodacom Origins Wild Coast earlier this month and climbed to 42nd on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit.”
Du Plessis is perfectly positioned to challenge for his second title on the country’s premier development Tour, but Strydom could certainly pose a threat.
The Kempton Park golfer won back-to-back titles in the Race to IGT series earlier this season and his second triumph was a come-from-behind win at ERMP in March. He was equally impressive with an eagle and six birdies, but a bogey at the 18thsaw him finish two shots back.
“Okkie is a real fighter, especially when he gets into contention, but you can’t do anything about another player’s game,” Du Plessis said. “The only thing you can control is your own game, so that’s all I will be focussing on tomorrow.”