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Ken Borland


Three Englishmen at the top of Sun City leaderboard

Posted on January 15, 2015 by Ken

Three Englishmen sat at the top of the leaderboard after the third round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club at Sun City on Saturday as Luke Donald, Danny Willett and Ross Fisher largely avoided the errors that caused those below them to fall by the wayside.

Donald retained the lead after a solid round of three-under-par 69 lifted him to 13-under-par heading into the final round with a one-stroke lead over Willett. Fisher is a further two shots back on 10-under-par after a two-under 70, a solid round with a cold putter.

Donald was the star of the second round with his nine-under-par 63, but Saturday belonged to Willett, the 27-year-old shooting a superb seven-under-par 65 to vault into contention, after starting the day five strokes behind the leader.

The other member of the final three-ball, Alexander Levy, had an awful day, a four-over-par 76 seeing him drop down the leaderboard to two-under-par, 11 strokes off the pace.

Victory for Willett would be a tremendous coup for a former amateur world number one who is looking to elevate his rapidly-growing standing and hunting his second European Tour title after winning the BMW International Open in Cologne, Germany, in 2012.

“I’m heading in the right direction, so that’s great. All three of us are in good positions to win and we’re obviously playing good golf. I’ll bring exactly the same approach to the final round; some of the greats win at best 10 tournaments in their career and this is only my sixth year on tour, hopefully I’ll have another 20 years out here, so there’s no rush,” Willett said after his low round of the day.

Fisher birdied the second hole but dropped a shot at the third before picking up further shots at the fifth and ninth holes. But he came home in level-par 36 after a bogey on the 16th and a birdie on the last and was left mulling over missed opportunities.

“It was another tough day. I felt like I probably played better than my score suggested, two‑under again. It was a similar story to yesterday, I felt like I hit it pretty good, gave myself a lot of chances and just couldn’t buy a putt.

“I felt like I’ve hit some good shots in there and haven’t got anything from it. So from two days, to not hole a putt to finally hole one on 18, hopefully that gives me some confidence and momentum going into tomorrow,” Fisher, the first-round leader, said.

From a South African perspective, Louis Oosthuizen’s 69 was one of the low rounds of the day, lifting him into a tie for fifth on four-under-par, one shot behind Marcel Siem.

But it was a disastrous day for Charl Schwartzel, who started the round seven shots back but birdied the first two holes to raise hopes of a charge by a local man. But he immediately bogeyed the par-four third and went out in level-par 36. An eagle-three on the 10th, sinking a wonderful lengthy putt, raised hopes again, but Schwartzel, who is not comfortable with his swing at the moment, imploded thereafter with a double-bogey on the notorious 14th hole and bogeys on 11, 13, 16 and 18, ending the day on level-par.

While Schwartzel’s frustration eventually boiled over, Donald was the picture of calm and composure and it is he who is probably the favourite to claim the $1.25 million first prize on Sunday.

“Around this course, shooting 69, that’s what the game plan was, to keep my nose ahead. I was very calm and collected out there and I’m as pleased with my game as I’ve been for a long while.

“I putted well, but not as well as yesterday, but the course was a little tougher today with the pin positions and it was hard to be aggressive. But I was very consistent and solid, just a couple of loose shots on the back nine. Tomorrow I’ll go out and trust my game, just keep my head down. Mentally, I think I’m stronger, trying to be positive out there and turn that to good golf,” Donald said.

The man who turns 37 on Sunday was typically unruffled in going to four-under for the day through 10 holes, but the 13th was a stumbling block as he dropped his first shot in 42 holes. A huge roar on his backswing from the 14th hole disrupted his drive, which landed in the fairway bunker. He then thinned his shot out of the sand, clipping some trees and finishing well short of the green and still impeded by branches. Donald did well to get on the green and two-putt for bogey from there.

He pushed his second putt badly on the par-four 17th, leading to a three-putt bogey, but the lead was restored on 18 as he hit a wonderful eight-iron approach shot from the rough to set up a closing birdie.

The quality of Willett’s iron play led to four relatively easy birdies on the front nine – his eagle putt on nine shaved the hole – but the back nine also brought him some challenges, despite the best of starts with birdies on the 10th and 11th holes.

But the son of a preacher man made two excellent par saves: on the par-three 12th he got up-and-down after short-siding himself in the greenside bunker, and on 15, which he described as the most important hole of his round, Willett made a 12-foot par putt after his drive sailed into the long grass and scrub behind the nasty left-hand fairway bunker.

http://citizen.co.za/288255/nedbank-golf-challenge-round-3-results/

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