Malelane, South Africa (SportsNetwork.com) - Branden Grace followed up his 10-under 62 with a 6-under 66 in Friday's second round and he extended his lead to five shots heading into the weekend at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Grace, a four-time winner on the European Tour, finished 36 holes at 16-under- par 128, five strokes better than Francesco Molinari. All four of Grace's wins on tour came in 2012.
Molinari surged up the leaderboard with a 7-under 65, which was the low round of the day at Leopard Creek Country Club. That was good enough to put Molinari in sole possession of second place at 11-under 133.
Tjaart van der Walt went low as well with a 5-under 67 and he is alone in third at minus-10. Danny Willett, winner of last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge, shot a 69 Friday and he is tied for fourth at 9-under 135 with Shaun Norris and Lucas Bjerregaard, both of whom carded 67s.
Defending champion Charl Schwartzel, trying to win this event for the third straight year and for the fourth time in his career, fired a 2-under 70 and he is tied for 23rd at 5-under 139.
Grace, playing the back nine first on Friday, picked up right where he left off on Thursday with a consistent start to his day. Grace began with three birdies on his first six holes on 11, 13 and 15 to get him to 13-under for the week.
The 26-year-old South African then made a pair of pars on 16 and 17 before making the turn with back-to-back gains on 18 and one.
Following a trio of pars from two, Grace dropped his first shot of the week with a bogey on No. 5, ending a stretch of 31 straight holes without a bogey at this tournament. Grace did not let the bogey linger, however, as he rebounded quickly with another gain on No. 6.
Grace closed out another solid round with two more pars on seven and eight before pouring in his seventh and final birdie on the par-4 ninth.
"This is a golf course that suits me and if I keep hitting everything in play the way I have been the first two days then it should be a good weekend, Grace said. "The pins have been kind so far. I'm sure there's going to be a couple of tricky and sticky pins out there on the weekend, but I'll just stick to the game plan and see what the next two rounds offer us."
Molinari was the only player who really came close to threatening Grace's lead on Friday. Molinari started off strong with a pair of birdies on one and two. Following a trio of pars, the Italian made his third gain on the par-4 sixth.
Making the turn with three more pars from seven, Molinari kept things rolling with birdies on 10 and 12. A big eagle on the par-5 13th put Molinari five shots back with five holes to play.
At 7-under through 13 holes, Molinari slowed down a bit over the final five. Three straight pars from 14 preceded Molinari's only bogey on No. 17, putting him back by six shots. He finished up strong with a birdie on 18 to get back to five strokes down heading into the weekend.
"I played really well today," Molinari stated. "I holed some really good putts. The last four or five holes could have been better, but 7-under is always a good round. Branden has set a low target for everyone, so it was good to get some birdies."
Van der Walt had a strong opening nine with birdies on 10, 11, 13 and 18. Two more gains on three and eight had van der Walt rolling, but a bogey at nine put a damper on an otherwise successful round.
NOTES: Grace's last victory came at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2012 ... Molinari also does not have a win since 2012, when he won the Open de Espana ... Along with winning this event three times, Schwartzel also has four runner-up finishes here ... With the cut falling at 1-under-par 143, 75 players advanced to play the weekend.