Hoey right in the hunt at halfway stage in George

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Michael Hoey (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

Michael Hoey added a one-under par 71 to his opening 63 to sit just one stroke off the lead heading into the weekend rounds of the Dimension Data Pro-Am.

The Northern Irish professional started on the back nine and opened with an eagle before two dropped shots at 12 and 13 halted any potential early momentum. The 42-year old picked up three birdies from the first to the fourth holes as he threatened to hold the halfway lead but dropped shots at 6 and 7 added up to a homeward half of 35, a one-under second round a ten-under total, just one shy of the lead.

Wilco Nienaber posted an eight-under par round of 64 to take a share of that lead alongside 2018 Champion Jaco Ahlers and Sweden’s Henric Sturehed. The big-hitting 21-year-old made a fast start on the Outeniqua course with an eagle and two birdies in his first three holes at Fancourt Golf Estate, before signing for a round of 64 and a share of the lead on 11 under par, with Ahlers and Sturehed both posting six under par rounds of 66.

The leading trio have a one-stroke advantage ahead of Denmark’s Niklas Norgaard Møller, Stanislav Matus, of the Czech Republic, and Hoey, who sit in a tie for fourth place on ten-under par.

Nienaber, who sits inside the top 200 on the Official World Golf Ranking, was pleased to take advantage of the more scoreable Outeniqua course at Fancort, but admits to feeling like he could have gone even lower.

“It was a lot of fun, making putts is great,” he said. “That said, I did miss a few opportunities that I would’ve loved to make but it’s great coming off the course on eight under par knowing you’ve left a few out there. I’m really happy.

“After yesterday, everyone was saying Outeniqua is the scoring course’ so you go out there thinking everyone’s saying this is the scoring course, so don’t mess this up!

“I find it pretty tough if you’re five under through only five holes, because then you know it’s yours to lose. If you get yourself in that position more often then you get more familiar with it. I just try to stay in the moment and focus on the next shot, then try and get as high up on the leaderboard as possible.”

Nine-time Sunshine Tour winner Ahlers has put himself in position to add another Dimension Data Pro-Am crown to the one he won in 2018 and is motivated by the added incentives on offer for this week’s champion.

“I haven’t played as well as I know I can over the last few weeks so this is nice to see a bit of form going into the weekend and seeing the weather might be worse than what it is now, it’s a good position to be in,” he said.

“This is probably the biggest tournament the Challenge Tour are going to have in terms of a regular season tournament, so if you can pull off a win here you’re basically 70 per cent of the way to a European Tour card. It’s a really big incentive and, as always, the invite to the WGC as well. It’s a massive event and Di Data have done so well for us with this tournament.”

Sweden’s Sturehed, who finished 32nd on the Road to Mallorca Rankings in 2020, posted the day’s low round on the Montagu course, a six under par 66, to join the South African duo in a tie for the lead.

“I’m very pleased with my performance today,” he said. “I think I drove it quite solid from the tee and my short game has been paying off so far, so hopefully I can do something similar tomorrow.

“My iron play has been good. I think it’s quite a strategic course so I managed to place the ball on the right side of the pins today, so that was the key.

“It’s a fantastic venue to play at Fancourt here. Both courses are in good condition so hopefully the weather will be with us over the weekend so I’m looking forward to it.”

France’s Jeong weon Ko carded a superb ten under par round of 62 to move into a share of seventh place on nine under par alongside World Number 97 George Coetzee, English duo Matthew Baldwin and Daniel Gavins, Sweden’s Anton Karlsson and Daan Huizing, of the Netherlands. Gavin Moynihan missed the cut by six strokes at three-over par.

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