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Max Homa admitted he was pleasantly surprised after claiming a share of the halfway lead in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Homa has not competed since making his Ryder Cup debut in Rome, where he was the only American to contest all five sessions and finished as the leading scorer on Zach Johnson’s side with three and a half points.
However, the world number eight justified his status as the top-ranked player in the field at Sun City as he added a second round of 68 to an opening 66 to share top spot with France’s Matthieu Pavon on 10 under par.
Homa, who has yet to drop a shot at the Gary Player Country Club, said: “I’m very pleased, a little pleasantly surprised, so it’s been nice.
“The body’s been feeling better as the week’s gone on, so I woke up today feeling like a golfer again, which was nice.
“It’s a real dream [to be here]. If you’re going to fly 27-odd hours over here, you might as well play some good golf, so it’s nice that I’m doing that.
“I caught a lot of edges with the putter but felt like I had a lot of good looks, played really smart. Hit 16 or 15 greens, made it pretty stress-free so it was a similar round to yesterday.”
Pavon is seeking a second victory in the space of four events after securing his maiden DP World Tour title by four shots in the Spanish Open last month.
“I just try to keep doing what I’ve been doing since the start of the year,” the world number 112 said after firing an eagle and five birdies in his 66. “That win brought me a lot of confidence in what I’m working on with my coaches. Everything is clear in my mind, I just show up and try to do my best.
“It has been really solid for two days so hopefully I can take that into tomorrow and Sunday, grind as much as possible and see what happens Sunday.”
England’s Dan Bradbury is a shot off the lead after carding his third bogey of the day on the 18th in a second round of 69, with Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard and Thorbjorn Olesen a further stroke back.
Seeking a third straight win in the event, Tommy Fleetwood shot 67 on Friday to be part of a seven-strong group on six under.
That group includes Justin Thomas after the two-time major winner equalled the lowest round of the day with a 66.