Nedbank Golf Challenge: Birdie blitz has Lee Westwood in pole position
World number one Lee Westwood produced a brilliant eight-under-par 64 to storm into the lead at the halfway stage of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.
The Englishman began the competition with a four-under 68 but was flawless on day two on his way to collecting eight birdies in a bogey-free round to lead from fellow Ryder Cup winner Ross Fisher, who ended with 68 and nine under overall.
Three more players that tasted success with Europe at Celtic Manor — Edoardo Molinari, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Padraig Harrington — were three strokes further back on six under.
Italian Molinari, along with South Africa's Tim Clark, managed the second best scores on day two, with their 67s at the Gary Player Country Club giving them hope for the weekend.
Ernie Els was all alone on five under after shooting 68, with Clark's effort seeing him climb to four under, the same score as defending champion Robert Allenby after his second successive 70.
But the day undoubtedly belonged to Westwood — a player clearly on top of his game after surpassing Tiger Woods as world number one at the end of October.
The 37-year-old from Worksop began with successive pars, but three birdies in his next four holes and another one on the par-five ninth helped him make the turn in 32. He then picked up a shot on the 10th, before three more birdies in his last five holes helped him end in with a flourish.
“I haven't played a lot recently, so I still feel a bit rusty,” Westwood said. “But today was great, it was about getting the most out of the round. Unlike yesterday when I started with one over through six and that's just what I've been doing in the last few weeks because I haven't been competitive and haven't been playing competitive golf. I seem to have gotten into the smooth of things now, my mind is also on the right things and that was the result today.”
Molinari, who was pleased with his effort after moving up alongside overnight leader Harrington and Spaniard Jimenez, paid tribute to Westwood, saying: “He's the world number one and has been playing great golf the last two seasons.
“So I think he deserves the position that he is in right now.”
The remainder of the 12-man field is made up of Retief Goosen, Anders Hansen (both 70) and Justin Rose (72) — all on two under overall — while Open champion Louis Oosthuizen brings up the rear after a disappointing 73.