19th January 2016 | Sunshine Ladies Tour
Strauss, Dlamini eye Ladies Joburg Open prize
Strauss added a three-under-par 69 to an opening 68 at the West Course to lead on seven under 137, but she is well aware of Lee-Anne Pace, Kim Williams, Ashleigh Simon and Nobuhle Dlamini from Swaziland looming large in her rear-view mirror.
â€œItâ€™s very tight at the top and anyone of them has the game to beat me,â€ said Strauss.
â€œThe key will be not to worry about what they do, but to keep control of my own game. I just need to try and post the lowest score possible and trust that it will be good enough.â€
Strauss began the day a shot behind Simon, but overhauled the first round pacesetter with successive gains at the second and third holes.
She gave back a shot at the fourth and eliminated a second bogey at the eighth with a birdie at nine.
The 24-year-old University of Texas graduate started the back nine one off the pace from Williams and Dlamini, but pulled clear of the pack with birdies at 15 and 18.
â€œThe pin at the fourth was a little tricky, but I didnâ€™t give myself a chance off the tee,â€ Strauss said.
â€œI was a little annoyed to three-putt the eighth for bogey, but I was still close to the leaders, I missed a few birdie chances down the back nine, but I picked up one at 15 and finished with a birdie.
â€œI got a little lucky there, actually. I was trying to go for the green in two, but I hit my three wood on the head. I hit a great hybrid into the green and still managed to make the birdie.â€
Pace and Simon posted respective rounds of 70 and 71.
The pair are experienced international campaigners and multiple title holders on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and so is Williams, who had her breakthrough in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies at Houghton two years ago.
â€œI really feel like I have the game to win this year,â€ said Dlamini after a one-bogey 69.
â€œThe last two years have been tough as I struggled with swing changes. I played terribly in the SA Womenâ€™s Open in December, but I had the self-belief that I could turn it around at the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School and I did.
â€œI came back from Morocco with my card for 2016 and a very decent game. The swing feels good, the putter is working well and my confidence is back where it should be to contest with the best. It feels good to be in contention again.â€
GFG Academyâ€™s Williams collected a pair of birdies on each nine, but sacrificed shots at the first and 12th for her 70.
â€œI was missing left and right over the first six or so holes on the front nine,â€ Williams said. â€œThe problem at this course is that when you hit it off-line, you have serious trouble because the rough is really thick. Chipping is also tough, but the greens are big, so if your putter is running hot, you can take advantage.
â€œOnce I got my rhythm under control, the swing felt really good and I only had 27 putts, so overall I am really pleased with the way my game is building. It is really great that our tournaments this season are 54-hole events, because it is far more competitive and you need greater consistency.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a dog-fight tomorrow and I am loving it.â€
PHOTOS -Â Bertine Strauss and Nobuhle Dlamini; credit Carl Fourie/Sunshine Ladies Tour.