Sun, Feb 16, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Rookie defies ranking to set pace at Africa Open

AFP, EAST LONDON, South Africa

American John Hahn mocked his world golf ranking of 881 by firing a 61 on Friday for a two-shot halfway lead in the Africa Open.

The 1.78m rookie carded an eagle and eight birdies and dropped no shots in his 10-under-par second round over the 6,632-yard course, the shortest on the European Tour.

Hahn, who opened with a 65 at the East London Golf Club in the Indian Ocean town, leads by two strokes from first-round pacesetter Ricardo Santos of Portugal.

A 24-year-old graduate of Kent State University in the American mid-west, Hahn is enjoying his first European Tour season after qualifying last year.

“My putter was hot today and I did not have to think — it was just a case of stepping up and stroking the ball,” Hahn said. “A couple of putts unexpectedly went in, like on the third hole from the fringe. I made a few putts you do not normally make and it turned into a great round.”

“There was rain and it got a bit windy toward the end of my round, but the conditions suited me perfectly,” he said. “If I got on a roll when I was younger, I would have started to think about it. Today, I managed to stay in the moment.”

Santos returned a five-birdie 66 during a second round that was delayed for 95 minutes by morning rain and has not dropped a shot in the European Tour-Sunshine Tour cosanctioned event.

Oliver Fisher from England is a further shot behind in third after an eight-birdie 63 — equal second-best score of the round with Argentine Emiliano Grillo and Dane Jens Dantorp.

Englishman David Horsey is alone in fourth spot on 130, firing a second-round 64 in a tournament that has never been won by a non-South African.

Shaun Norris and Retief Goosen were the first winners, and Major champions Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, twice, and Darren Fichardt succeeded when the Africa Open joined the European circuit.

Defending champion Fichardt is the only former winner competing this year. A second-round 67 left him seven strokes behind Hahn.

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