Hole-out eagle sets Rama up for Joburg Open halfway lead

Nov 24, 2023 | Featured, Sunshine Tour

From DP World Tour

World number 1,214 Nikhil Rama fired a brilliant bogey-free round of 62 on day two of the Joburg Open on Friday to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at Houghton Golf Club.

The 22-year-old is playing only his 10th DP World Tour event this week, with just two made cuts and a best finish of a tie for 33rd in the Joburg Open 12 months ago.

He is in the field courtesy of a career-best Sunshine Tour finish of fourth at the recent Vodacom Origins of Golf Finals and was making himself right at home, carding six birdies and a spectacular hole-out eagle to get to 13-under and lead the way from 2022 champion Thriston Lawrence.

Dean Burmester matched Rama’s 62 to sit at 10-under alongside Jacques Kruyswijk, one clear of Zander Lombard as South Africans took every spot in the top seven.

Rama will now go out alongside four-time DP World Tour winner Lawrence in the final group on Saturday but he insists he is enjoying the pressure of what could be a life-changing week.

“What can I say, it was a great round,” he said. “It’s my lowest score on tour so far so I’m really excited about that.

“I’m enjoying the pressure, enjoying the fans which is great and just trying to have fun.

“After short missed putts on one and two, the eagle that went down on number three from 202 metres just got the positive vibes going.

“I’m giving myself plenty of chances, I think I only missed one green today and one green yesterday so I’m giving myself some chances.

“My caddie Shannon is great. He’s won in Europe, he’s a good friend of mine, he knows the course well, he’s a member here as well so we read the greens together and we’re reading it quite well.”

Lawrence had fired an opening 62 to lead by three after day one and it looked like he would stay on top as he extended that to four once the morning wave had finished.

The home favourite birdied his opener at the 10th but dropped a shot on the next before picking it back up on the 12th. A run of six pars saw him turn in 34 and while he birdied the first, he dropped another shot on the third before going eagle-birdie from the fifth to surge clear.

Rama had said after his opening 65 that he felt like he could compete on any tour and he soon set about proving it, holing out from 221 yards at the third and almost doing the same on the next as his ball rolled down the ridge and missed the cup by inches, leaving him three feet for birdie.

A 15-foot right-to-lefter on the seventh was followed by a 12-footer on the eighth that put him in solo second at 10-under and saw him turn in 30.

He made a two-putt birdie on the par-five 10th and added another from 10 feet on the 11th before more precise iron play set up a gain that handed him the lead on his own at the 13th.

There was room for more fireworks on the 17th, however, as he opted to chip from a tough spot on the green, sending the ball off the putting surface and using the slope to set up a brilliant par.

Burmester’s 62 was the third this week, matching the new course record set by Lawrence in round one, and he was even able to throw in a bogey on the eighth, adding a hat-trick of birdies from the third, four in a row from the 10th and a birdie-birdie finish as he came home in 29.

Kruyswijk started birdie-bogey but then picked up six shots in seven holes from the fifth, birdieing the fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th before holing out for eagle on the par-four 11th in a 64.

Lombard stayed bogey-free for the week as he picked up shots on the seventh, ninth, 10th, 16th and 17th in a 65 to sit at nine under.

Jaco Prinsloo recovered from bogeys on the second and third to post six birdies in a 66 that left him at eight-under, one clear of Darren Fichardt, who made four birdies before bogeying the last in a 67.

There was then a group of nine players at five-under including defending champion Dan Bradbury.

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