BANGKOK, Thailand: Newly-minted Asian Tour champion Kurt Kitayama continued his fine form by signing for a two-under-par 69 to trail by two shots at the halfway mark of the South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg on Friday.
After opening his campaign with a solid 63 at the Firethorn course, the 25-year-old American followed up with a round of four birdies against two bogeys at the Bushwillow course to tie in third place on 10-under-par 132 total at the Randpark Golf Club.
South African Charl Schwartzel propelled into the lead after putting up a flawless display of golf for a 63, highlighted by one eagle and six birdies. Madalitso Muthiya of Zambia lurks one shot off the pace in second following a 68 at the R17.5 million (approx. US$1,200,000) event.
Tour members Jbe Kruger of South Africa, Matt Wallace of England and Korea’s Yikeun Chang placed themselves inside top-10 of the leaderboard after carding rounds of 67, 69 and 65 respectively in the South African showpiece.
Adilson Da Silva of Brazil, South African Shaun Norris and American John Catlin were among the 70 players from the 240-man field to survive the halfway cut, which was set at two-under-par 140 at the event tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Sunshine Tour.
Coming off the back of a breakthrough victory in Mauritius last week, Kitayama is thrilled to extend his good run of form and put himself in position for back-to-back wins on the Asian Tour.
“It felt a little off today but I’m glad I was able to grind out a score of a couple-under and stay right in it for the weekend. The wind made it a lot tougher. It’s hard to score when it’s really windy. I had a good par save on the last. Those putts don’t seem that big but they definitely help going into the third round.
“I haven’t really thought about where I am too much. I’m just taking from last week and using it this week, and that helps calm things down for me. There are a lot of big names here so winning this would be really incredible,” said Kurt.
Kitayama signaled his arrival in Asia when he came in tied-third in his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School earlier in January. He went on to win in his first start on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) in Malaysia later that month.
Prior to his breakthrough, Kitayama has notched three top-five finishes in New Zealand, Thailand and Japan and has not missed a single cut in 13 starts on the region’s premier Tour this season.
The South African Open hosted by the City of Joburg is part of The Open Qualifying Series for the 148th Open at Royal Portrush. Spots are given to the leading three players (not otherwise exempt) who finish in the top 10 and ties.