Becky Brewerton holds a four-shot advantage at the midway mark of the Investec South African Women’s Open after firing a resounding second round of 66 (-6) to put herself in a commanding position in Cape Town.
The two-time Solheim Cup star rediscovered the sort of form that saw her win the Order of Merit back in 2009 on Thursday, as she rattled in six birdies without dropping a single shot in a remarkable performance at Steenberg Golf Club.
The incredible round marks a fantastic turnaround for the Welshwoman, who was on the verge of quitting the sport altogether after a tricky last few years, and only regained her LET card after a terrific comeback at Q-School last December.
And the 39-year-old has certainly made the most of that reprieve, as she dealt best when the wind picked up around midday in South Africa to help herself to a resounding lead after 36 holes.
“I’ve done nothing but practice my punch shots since I’ve been here, every shot I’ve hit on the range has been a cut or straight arm finish to try and keep the ball low,” Brewerton revealed.
“Even this morning when we didn’t have the wind for the first 12 holes, I was still using that shot because now the ground is wet after yesterday’s rain, so you’ve got to get good ball connection and drive the ball forwards. I’m going to stick with that because it worked really well today.
“It was nice because there was no stress at all, I hit a lot of greens and fairways which hasn’t always been the case over the years. It was a nice feeling and I’m enjoying playing well again.”
After starting on the tenth tee, Brewerton began her day with seven straight pars, before picking up three shots in as many holes between the 17th and the first to start to make her way up the leaderboard.
And despite the conditions getting tougher as the breeze increased in the afternoon, it didn’t seem to affect the Welsh player, as she birdied the fourth and fifth to put daylight between herself and the rest of the field.
Another perfect tee shot on the seventh set up another birdie on seven, as she posted her finest 18-hole score on the LET since December 2014 and put her in with a chance of a first victory in over a decade.
“It’s a really weird feeling, because three or four years ago, or even last year, I wasn’t sure if I would be playing anymore,” Brewerton said.
“Even after two days at Q-School in December it was all looking over I was thinking about what jobs I would be getting at home, but then it all came together.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and I’ve got a lot of people to thank for keeping me going.”
Brewerton’s nearest challenger after day two is Magdalena Simmermacher, although the overnight leader couldn’t capitalise on her position at the start of the day – firing a 73 (+1) to take her overall score to -3 after 36 holes.
The Argentinian’s only birdie of the day came on the par-five fourth, but was quickly followed by a bogey on nine, before she dropped another shot on 15.
“I think my game was better today, I gave myself a lot of chances today but I just didn’t make a lot of putts. I think it was a struggle on the greens to read the breaks, and with the wind it was more difficult than yesterday, but overall I think I played pretty good,” she said.
“Today the wind punished me because it was getting my driver so I was having really long clubs in, then I had to get up and down from hard places so that’s where I struggled.
“I only made one bogey on the back nine so it’s not that bad, but yesterday I was leaving it closer to the pins, that was the difference.”
Felicity Johnson of England and France’s Anne-Charlotte Mora find themselves in a share of third spot on -2 after Thursday’s action, with both having mixed days on course in the earlier part of the day.
Starting on 10, Johnson dropped three shots in her first two holes, before going out in 40 (+4), but coming home it was a different story, as she valiantly fought back with five birdies in her final eight holes to rocket herself into contention.
It was a similar story for Mora, who dropped two shots in her first three holes before making three birdies and one more bogey to complete her day at level-par.
Three players find themselves another shot back on -1 heading into Friday, with Leonie Harm (71), Maiken Bing Paulsen (-2), Josefine Nyqvist (74) all reaching the halfway mark in red numbers.
Behind them are five more players who are level-par through 36 holes, including Joburg Ladies Open champion Linn Grant, who scored a second-successive round of 72 in Cape Town.
French player Agathe Sauzon has also played 144 shots so far, as well as England’s Thalia Martin, while Casandra Alexander is the highest placed South African as it stands.
And the 22-year-old was pleased with her round as she dealt admirably with the trickier afternoon conditions at Steenberg Golf Club.
“It was a tough day out; I made a lot of par saves from some silly mistakes. I think my expectations were a lot higher than what the conditions were willing to give, especially the back nine setup. I was a bit disappointed with the finish but overall I’m happy,” she said.
“It’s a very tricky golf course, off the tee it’s quite wide but the greens are very tricky, and the wind here in Cape Town makes it quite tough.
“I found the greens difficult to read – going into the grain doesn’t mean it’s slow and going with the grain doesn’t make it fast – so I think getting the hang of that is important and you’ve got to really trust your lines because they’re tough to read.”
Elsewhere, there were two hole-in-ones in the day’s play, with Charlotte Liautier holing out on the 135m 17th with an 8-iron, while Julie Berton found the cup from the 14th tee box with her 6-iron, which was from 156m.
A total of 66 players made the cut to continue into the final two day’s action, with the cutline falling at +6.