Johannesburg - South Africa's Thriston Lawrence led the Joburg Open on Friday where the emergence in the country of a new coronavirus variant sparked turmoil with the tournament reduced to 54 holes.
After an exodus of 16 British and Irish players following Thursday's opening round scrambling to get home to avoid quarantine, organisers took drastic action.
"The Sunshine Tour, DP World Tour and City of Johannesburg have decided to reduce the Joburg Open to 54 holes to help non-South African resident players, caddies and tournament support staff return to their home countries," a statement announced.
"The decision was taken to help facilitate their safe return and give them an extra day to make travel arrangements.
"The move follows international travel restrictions imposed on South Africa on Friday due to the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant in the country," it added.
Coronavirus has dictated that this first event of the new DP World Tour has not gone the way the rebranded European Tour would have hoped.
The Joburg Open was co-sanctioned with South Africa’s Sunshine Tour and organisers announced that it would continue as an event carrying World Tour points.
But next week’s South African Open will lose its World Tour status and be played only as a Sunshine Tour event, while the Alfred Dunhill championship the following week, which was also due to be a co-sanctioned event, has been cancelled.
Home hope Lawrence shut out all the drama to card a second straight 65 to leave him 12 under par with a midway lead of four shots.
Compatriot Zander Lombard led the chasing pack with England's Ashley Chesters one shot adrift.
Chesters added a 69 to his opening 66 as he battled to concentrate on his game.
"There's all sorts of other things going on so I've got to try and work out what's going on with that.
"But on the golf course hopefully I can just keep doing what I've been doing."
A second weather delay left more than 60 players waiting to complete their second rounds early Saturday before the third and now closing round.