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Otto Hanging Tough In South Africa

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Hennie Otto shot a 2-under 70 on Friday to retain his one-shot lead entering the weekend at the East London Golf Club, site of this year's Mercedes-Benz South African Open.
 
Otto's 36-hole total score of 9-under 135 is one better than Roger Wessels and Greg Owen, each of whom posted scores of 69 on Day 2. Tobias Dier of Germany shot the round of the day, a 6-under 66, to move to the 7-under mark with Welshman Bradley Dredge. They are just two strokes back.
 
Dredge actually began his day completing his opening round from Thursday. In fact, 54 players in the field were required to come out early Friday morning to finish up following the heavy rain and lightning which caused several delays in the first round.
 
Fortunately, all 155 of the contestants completed their second round Friday, but only 72 will be returning over the weekend, as the cut fell at 1-over-par 145.
 
Otto, for one, had no problem making the cut. However, it was not looking good for him at one point early in his second round.
 
Through his opening ten holes, the South African was 3-over for the day, and had lost his lead. But he recovered in nice fashion, stuffing in birdies on five of his closing seven holes to finish on an acceptable 70.
 
'I managed to keep my head on my shoulders, which we all know is a difficult thing for me,' said the 24-year-old, who was recently brought under scrutiny from media and the South African Tour for an incident in which he tossed all his clubs into a river following a score of 80.
 
'So today was a bit of a mental victory for me as well.'
 
It certainly must have been. And now, Otto now has a legitimate chance to claim his first victory on the European Tour.
 
He will have to continue his solid play, however, as some big names lurk not far behind. Retief Goosen and Thomas Bjorn are each four shots off the pace at 5-under. Goosen shot a 68 on the day, while Bjorn went around in 67.
 
Two players who did not fare as well on Friday were Ignacio Garrido and Darren Clarke. Garrido was coming off an opening round off 66, and was just a stroke off the pace. However, a Day 2 score of 73 now sees him four shots behind.
 
Clarke, on the other hand, needed a strong round Friday just to make the cut after he opened with a 77. He blew up to a 78 on Day 2, however, and will not be playing this weekend.
 
Click here for Full-Field scores from the South African Open!

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