Wilco Nienaber upped the ante on Friday in the second round of the PGA Tour’s Palmetto Championship at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina as he carded a second successive three-under-par 68 to move into a share of fourth.
He increased his average driving distance from the opening 357.2 yards to 369.6 yards as he made an eagle, five birdies and four bogeys to reach 36 holes in six-under-par, five shots off the leader, Chesson Hadley of the United States. Hadley held a two-stroke lead over world number one Dustin Johnson, with American Tain Lee in third on seven-under. Nienaber shared fourth with five other players, including compatriot Erik van Rooyen.
Nienaber’s eagle came early in his round on the third, after he had tried to drive the green. His 347-yard tee shot leaked right into a greenside waste bunker as he short-sided himself. “I missed it on the right, with the flag on the right, and I was in the waste area,” he said. “I just fancied the shot. I don’t know why because it was a tough shot. But as soon as I hit that thing, it came off really nice, and it just never looked like going far, and then it went in the hole.”
The lack of accuracy is something Nienaber will keep his eye on as the tournament goes into the weekend, as he conceded two penalty strokes from tee-shots during the second round – on the par-four 15th, where he saved par with a 15-foot putt, and on the par-five 16th, where he didn’t reach the green with his recovery after he pulled his tee shot left of the big waste area.
Van Rooyen signed for a level-par 71 with two birdies and two bogeys, while Garrick Higgo, like Nienaber, climbed the leaderboard into a share of 10th on five-under with his two-under 69.
Higgo made six birdies and four bogeys in his round after an up-and-down opening nine from the 10th. He reached the turn level after three bogeys and three birdies, and then he made three birdies in a row from the first. He dropped on the fourth and parred bis way in.
Nienaber, meanwhile, is relishing his maiden appearance on the PGA Tour ahead of next week’s US Open. “I grew up watching the PGA Tour, and this is where I want to be,” he said. “It’s really nice to start off like I did. I’m really pleased with what I did the last two days.”