Jaco Ahlers recorded his best round ever at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday as he carded a five-under-par 67 to move into second place after the second round of the 54-hole SunBet Challenge hosted by Sun City.
He heads into the final round two shots behind first-round leader Alex Haindl, who carded a second-round three-under 69 to move to eight-under for the tournament. Madalitso Muthiya of Zambia is on third on five-under after a three-under second round of his own, and veterans Ulrich van den Berg and Jaco van Zyl share fourth on two-under after rounds of 69 and 73 respectively.
Ahlers got the round off to the perfect beginning as he started his day’s play on the 10th hole, and he made eagle-three on the par-five. “I hit driver off the tee,” he said, “and then rescue just short left and chipped in, which was nice.”
Ahlers, who closed with a 74 to lose out on a chance of winning the Dimension Data Pro-Am, the last tournament before this one on the Sunshine Tour back on May 9, feels his game is close to as good as it can get. “That was a bitter pill to swallow,” he said, “and I didn’t touch my clubs at all after that until this tournament. But I feel as if my ball-striking is as good as it has ever been. I wouldn’t say the putter’s cold, but if a few more drop, I should get some really good scores.
“Unfortunately, I three-putted for bogey on the 13th today, but, other than that, I’m very happy with my round. Especially happy because I made three birdies in a row on 14, 15 and 16.”
He carded four-under on his opening nine after that run of birdies, and then he came home in a bogey-free 35, picking up a birdie on the sixth.
Sun City always presents a stern challenge to the professionals, and it’s been made tougher as the greenkeeping staff keep the fairways well-watered to keep them green. “That makes them soft too,” said Ahlers, “so it’s playing quite long. And with some the pins tucked away – like on the ninth – birdie opportunities are few and far between.”
He goes into the final round with his eyes firmly on some sort of redemption for the one that got away when Wilco Nienaber won the Dimension Data Pro-Am, but he won’t be trying anything too fancy. “This is a course that can bite you,” he warned, “so I’ll go out and do what I did today and see if I can make a few more putts.”