European Tour

Schwartzel leads Euro Tour opener in South Africa

Charl Schwartzel (Jan Kruger/ Getty Images)

MALELANE, South Africa – Charl Schwartzel shot a 5-under 67 Friday to open a five-shot lead after the second round of the European Tour’s season-opening Alfred Dunhill Championship.

South Africa’s Schwartzel, a three-time champion at the Alfred Dunhill, made six birdies and a bogey for an 11-under total of 133 at the halfway point.

There was a four-way tie for second at Leopard Creek Country Club, with Pablo Martin Benavides, Richard Sterne, Benjamin Hebert and Joost Luiten on 6 under.

Defending champion Branden Grace struggled to a 73 – despite an eagle on No. 13 – to be tied for 51st on level par, just avoiding the cut.

Louis Oosthuizen, the highest-ranked player at Leopard Creek this week, carded 76 to miss the cut after needing eight shots on the par-3 No. 7. It was Oosthuizen’s first missed cut in his last 18 European Tour events.

Because lightning suspended play Thursday, Schwartzel finished his first round early Friday by birdying No. 18 for a 66. He birdied the hole again in his second round to continue his strong play at a tournament where he has finished second four times to go with his three titles.

“Every year I come back here, as soon as I arrive I get that real comfortable feeling, a peaceful feeling,” Schwartzel said of the golf course on the edge of the Kruger National Park wildlife reserve.

As Schwartzel surged ahead, overnight leader Christiaan Basson had a 76 to slip down to a tie for ninth.

The European Tour opened its 2015-16 season at the Alfred Dunhill Championship just days after Rory McIlroy won the World Tour Championship and the tour’s 2014-15 Race to Dubai crown.