Date: December 20, 2008

Lorenzo-Vera in charge

Michael Lorenzo-Vera holds the lead halfway through the South African Open after his second round score of seven-under-par 65 left him two shots clear of the field. The Frenchman, who played the back nine first at the Pearl Valley Golf Estates, was faultless through his round, especially impressing through the midway stage with six birdies in seven holes. That set him up to lead from Lee Westwood, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel and Damien McGrane – the Irishman&aposs eight under 64 giving him the honour of joint best effort of the day. The early clubhouse leader Thomas Aiken was the other man who managed a 64 to move nine under overall, alongside Gareth Maybin and Dave Horsey, another player to have an excellent round two with a bogey-free seven-under-par 65. Two-time champion Retief Goosen leads a bunch of players at eight under par, while another well-known South African Rory Sabbatini is back at seven under with Chris Wood, who finished fifth at the Open at Royal Birkdale earlier this year also on the same score. But it was a day to remember for the 23-year-old leader and he admitted his main aim coming into the competition was to test his right wrist, which he injured two months ago by falling over some stairs. “It feels pretty good, pretty cool to be leading because I had two months of rest because of my wrist,” said Lorenzo-Vera, who was playing in his first tournament since the injury. “So I was just coming here to find some new feelings. “Today was just like yesterday, the putting was very good. The first nine, the putts were not very good, I think mainly because they were long putts. But the second nine I hit the irons much closer. But everything was good.” Looking forward to his chances for the weekend, the Biarritz-based player said that he was hoping to make his good position count. He added: “I hope this time I&aposm going to catch it. There were few occasions last year that I let it go, so I&aposm just going to try and make it a good weekend. I&aposll be aiming to hit a lot of greens in regulation like I did today.” Four-time winner Els was optimistic of his chances going into the weekend. He said: “It&aposs only the second round, halfway through the tournament and still so much to happen. I&aposm at 10 under and pretty pleased with that. I had a nice day and even if a guy is at 15 under I don&apost care. “We&aposve got two rounds left. If I&aposm two shots behind with two to play I still have a chance to win, so there&aposs still plenty of golf left.” McGrane, who won the 2008 Volvo China Open, attributed his success to being grouped with South African Schwartzel. “It was strange the way it (his round) happened,” he said. “We had a good three-ball and Charl had four birdies to start his game straight away today and I had one par and four birdies to follow him.” “I think I was brought along by his momentum. He was playing well and he&aposs a world-class player, as you know, I just got into the game and went along with his birdies. “So both of us fed off each other a little bit and it&aposs nice to see both of us at the top of the leaderboard.” Northern Irish pair Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke had much improved rounds on Friday with the former six shots off the leader after carding a 68 to go with his 70 from day one. Clarke recovered well from his opening day 74 with four birdies and an eagle seeing him home in 67. Henrik Stenson, the world No.8 and highest ranked player at the co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event, shot a 71 for a three-under overall total, while England&aposs Justin Rose just made the cut with his two-over-par round leaving him one under for the tournament. The only major name to miss the cut was defending champion James Kingston after he ended with a 74 to go with a 72 on day one.