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Sixth time the charm as Lee finishes joint leader

Craig Lee had missed the cut on his previous five golfing visits to South African but the Stirling man is now in a strong position to claim a maiden European Tour title in the country heading into the closing 36 holes of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington.

Craig Lee plays his second shot to the 18th yesterday, about to complete  a round of 67 to share the halfway lead with Edoardo Molinari. Picture: Getty Sport
Craig Lee plays his second shot to the 18th yesterday, about to complete a round of 67 to share the halfway lead with Edoardo Molinari. Picture: Getty Sport

Lee, who led a stellar field in last month's Abu Dhabi Championship with one round to play but had to settle for a share of 10th place, added a four-under 67 to his opening 65 for an 11-under 132 and sits in a share of the halfway lead with Italian Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari.

Lee, aiming to become the second Scot in a row to win on the tour after Stephen Gallacher's triumph in Dubai last weekend, made an early raid with four birdies on his opening eight holes. He could only muster a level-par inward half, however, as he finished in a tie at the top.

"The goal was to not fall back and there's a strong field behind you, so it was important that I didn't slip back," said Lee, who was pipped to the Omega European Masters crown in a play-off by Thomas Bjorn last season. "I had a pretty good chance early on to distance myself from the rest of the field, but I didn't really capitalise on the back nine."

Molinari feels his game is in a good place as the Italian continued his return to form with a 68. The 32-year-old has been plagued by injury problems since making his Ryder Cup debut alongside brother Francesco in 2010, slipping from world's top 20 to No.220 as a result.

Having finished inside the top ten in Dubai last week, however, the former Scottish Open champion is continuing his rehabilitation in South Africa. "I'm very happy with pretty much everything; I am very happy with my position and my game right now," said Molinari.

England's David Horsey and home favourite George Coetzee share third on 10-under and the former was delighted with his work on the greens after an eight-under 63 on the West Course. The two-time European Tour winner had six birdies over his opening 14 holes, and rolled in a five-footer at the 15th and a 30-footer at the next to complete his scoring in a flawless round.

Alastair Forsyth, who opened with a 64, posted a more modest 70 yesterday but the two-time tour winner is well in the hunt in a share of fifth, just two shots off the pace. His fellow Scottish tour champions, Scott Jamieson and Marc Warren, were among a host of home hopefuls who missed the cut.

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