Ashleigh Buhai fired a round of 65 (-7) on day two of the Investec South African Women’s Open to lead by four strokes heading into the weekend.
The 2022 AIG Women’s Open champion backed up her first round of 64 with a round of seven-under to put herself in pole position on 15-under-par at Steenberg Golf Club.
It was a flawless day for Buhai who rolled in her first birdie on the fourth before adding two more on holes eight and nine.
Back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 put the South African into the lead and she extended her advantage with two more birdies on 16 and 17.
“It is always a good day when you have no bogeys, so that’s first things first,” said Buhai, who is number 18 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
“My front nine was a little bit of a slow start, I got a bit unlucky on number five when I hit the flag and it ricocheted. I stayed patient and then managed to finish birdie-birdie. I just managed to hit it to good spots on the greens and made a few putts on the back nine.
“The golf course is staying soft, so you can be a bit more aggressive, but the pins were a little bit more tucked today. At the same time, I had to be patient. I felt myself trying to push a little bit and then on seven, I hit it left and I said to myself to just hit it to my spaces and the birdies will come and that’s what I did on the back nine.”
Buhai is a former champion of the tournament having won three times previously in 2004, 2007 and 2018.
Heading into the final two rounds, the four-time LET winner is going to stick to what she knows and enjoy having her husband David on the bag.
She explained: “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I will stick to my process and stick to my steps and try and stick to my thoughts that I have in my swing, that’s all I can control and hopefully, the outcome will be what we want.
“It’s always good fun to have him on the bag. He caddied for me for eight years, no one knows my game better other than my coach Doug. It’s good when we can do these one-off weeks together every now and then.”
Germany’s Chiara Noja, who led overnight, sits in second place on the leaderboard on 11-under-par after a round of 71 (-1) on day two.
The teenager had tough morning conditions with lots of wind and rain but still managed to have four birdies on her scorecard.
“My front nine the rain was quite torrential, so I was just trying to make pars,” said the LET winner. “I made a birdie on 11 and thought to myself woah how did I do that? I was very pleased with myself.
“I dropped a stupid two shots on 15 which was a little silly, but apart from that it was a decent day. I couldn’t quite convert some of the putts that I gave myself opportunities for on the back nine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully, I’ll be drier.”
Four players are in a share of third place with Argentina’s Magdalena Simmermacher, Spain’s Ana Peláez Triviño, France’s Nastasia Nadaud and Netherlands’ Romy Meekers all on eight-under-par.
It was an excellent day for last year’s runner-up Simmermacher, who produced a round of 67 (-5) to climb up the leaderboard.
The Argentinian explained: “At the beginning, we had a lot of rain and a lot of wind. On the first tee, I thought let’s survive this. I hit it in the water with my second shot and ended up with a bogey, which was fine.
“Then after that, I said let’s be aggressive and try and make some birdies by trying to make the green and go for the putt. That’s how I played basically all the way through the round was hitting greens, I didn’t make too many fairways, but I was able to make a lot of putts.
“The course is in really good shape. The greens are rolling well and you can read the lines. Last year in really bad conditions I played well, so that gives me a good feeling.
“I wanted to come and be more aggressive, so if I were to win I would want to do it before the end so I don’t have to go to a playoff. Although the playoff was fun last year.”
It was also a round of 67 (-5) for Peláez Triviño, who sits fourth in the 2023 Race to Costa del Sol, and only dropped one shot in her second round.
“The weather was really nice this afternoon,” said the Spaniard. “I think it was a good opportunity for all of us to get a good round. I hit really good shots into the green and even though I missed a couple of putts, I had plenty of long ones that I made.
“Overall, I think it was a really good round. I was also very patient and very calm and having fun – I think that’s all that matters.”
Five players sit in a tie for seventh place with South African duo Kaleigh Telfer and Casandra Alexander, English pair Lily May Humphreys and Gabriella Cowley, as well as Sweden’s Johanna Gustavsson on six-under-par.
The cut fell at even par with 61 players making it through to the final two rounds of the Investec SA Women’s Open.