Rose's birdie blitz earns share of top spot in Sun City

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The Independent Online

England's Justin Rose fired a seven-under 65 to move into a share of the lead after the second round of the Sun City Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club in South Africa yesterday.

The European No 1 started the day one shot off the lead, but five birdies on the back nine fired him to an 11-under-par total of 133 alongside South Africa's Trevor Immelman.

Immelman and Rose, both 27, duelled for the lead throughout an enthralling second day and Immelman eventually needed a birdie at the par-four 18th to ensure a share of the lead midway through the invitational tournament.

"The ball is rolling really well, and I feel confident over my putter, so that's certainly helping me," said Rose.

The three-times champion, Ernie Els, blazed his way around the front nine in 32 strokes and was also in a share of the lead after 13 holes, before a poor finish saw him end the day in third position on eight-under-par 136.

Els is seeking a record fourth title at Sun City and the $1.2m (580,000) first prize, but had a bogey at the penultimate hole and said it would be tough to catch Rose. "Justin is putting as well as Tiger Woods right now," Els said. "That's going to make him very tough to beat, but I'll give it my best shot."

Sweden's Henrik Stenson played himself into contention with a seven-under-par 65 and is a stroke behind the South African and one ahead of the joint overnight leader, Adam Scott of Australia, who fired a second-round 71.

Luke Donald, who was tied second with Rose overnight, also shot a one-under 71 and is a shot further back at five-under.

Eight of the 12 golfers in the field had under-par second rounds on a day which was overcast and damp after morning showers allowing the competitors to fire at the flags.

England's Richard Finch and the Australian Steven Bowditch both shot course record 65s in the second round of the New Zealand Open yesterday. Bowditch leads by one shot at the halfway mark after a birdie blitz between the ninth and 13th holes gave him a 10-under-par total. Finch was in a tie for fourth at The Hills Golf Club, Queenstown, four shots adrift.