20th July 2016 | IGT Challenge Tour
Franz joins the frenzy at Zwartkop Challenge
(PHOTO – Russel Franz; credit CJ du Plooy)
TSHWANE, 20 July 2016 – Local favourite Russel Franz hopes he can dial back the years and duplicate his course record at Zwartkop Country Club after he joined the pack of players chasing Ockie Strydom in the second round of the Zwartkop Challenge.
Strydom did all the important things right to sign off with a six-under-par 65 and not even a pair of bogeys gave any of his pursuers a sniff at the top spot on the leaderboard.
Bidding to become the first player with five consecutive victory on the country’s premier development Tour, the Sunshine Tour campaigner stretched a one shot overnight lead to a four shot advantage at 12 under 128.
Amateur Albert Venter held on to second spot with a 68, while Franz shares third at nine under with Matthew Spacey, who returned a 65.
Strydom is undoubtedly the favourite to win, but Franz believes he can catch his GFG Academy stable-mate if he can get the putter to perform.
“Back in 2014, I shot a course record 60 and I’ve had a bunch of low rounds here at my home course, but if I get the putter going early, I can put some pressure on Ockie,” Franz said.
“He has been playing unbelievably well the last three weeks and he won’t go down without a fight, but yes, I do believe it can be done. It all depends on the short stick.”
The 26-year-old hit 17 greens in regulation in the first round for an opening 67 and found 16 greens in round two, so his overall game is certainly in good shape.
“I’m striking the ball incredibly well and I’m rock solid from 100 metres out,” he said. “It’s great to have the confidence out there, but it’s worthless if you can’t get the ball in the hole. I missed eight putts from four feet and that’s just plain frustrating.
“I made a great birdie today at the first par five, but followed that with eight pars on the trot and the putter just stayed frozen. I didn’t birdie the second par five (fourth hole) and I didn’t take advantage at the last (18th) either, so that’s two missed opportunities right there.
“The Sunshine Tour resumes at the Wild Coast next week and I came looking for a top three this week to take a bit of confidence into my first start after the break. I had much better rhythm and pace on the greens on the back nine and that’s a step in the right direction. If I can get it going early in the round, Ockie, Albert and I can have a great tussle down the back nine on Thursday.”
Venter survived a roller-coaster round comprising six bogeys, an eagle and seven birdies to hang on to second, while Franz was flawless with birdies at the first, 10th, 13th, 14th and 16th. Spacey offset bogeys at three and 18 with eight birdies.
Altaaf Bux carded a 68 to move into fourth on eight under, one shot ahead of Zwartkop Match Play champion Damian Naicker (69) and Carrie Park, who fired a flawless 66 for a share of sixth.