Grace was five shots ahead after rounds of 62 and 66, but while Saturday’s third round was a struggle for him, it was a joyous breeze for golfers like Lucas Bjerregaard and the in-form Danny Willett.
Bjerregaard started the third round seven shots off the pace but is now in a fine position to continue the recent success of Danish golfers in South Africa, firing a marvellous six-under-par 66 to finish on 15-under, just one stroke behind Grace.
Willett also had an outstanding round, with three birdies on the front nine and four on the back, his only blemish being a double-bogey six on the ninth, as he leapt into third place on 14-under.
Francesco Molinari, in second place overnight, was two under through 10 holes, but he was cowed by the back nine, unable to pick up another shot and was overtaken by Bjerregaard and Willett.
The highlight of the day was Bjerregaard’s roaring finish, the 23-year-old coming in with three successive birdies, following an eagle on the famous par-five 13th.
“It’s a great position to be in and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. After seven or eight holes it definitely didn’t look like I was going to be in this position, so it was nice to turn things around and play a really solid back nine,” Bjerregaard said.
Grace, in contrast, bogeyed the 17th and had to save par on the 18th to limp home, but he was still in good spirits at the end of a tough day. Overcast conditions meant the usual blistering Lowveld heat was absent, but the golfers had to contend with the wind picking up and the ball not travelling as far in the cooler temperatures.
“It was a tough day, but I didn’t play too badly, I wouldn’t call it a bad round. It’s not as if I’m going to the range to try and find something, there’s not much I need to work on. I’ll take the positives into the final round, I’m still ahead and I’ll come with a positive frame of mind tomorrow [Sunday].
“I’m still hitting the ball well, I just need to make better decisions. You always expect one iffy round in a tournament and if that was it then I’m alright with it,” Grace said after an up-and-down round with four bogeys and four birdies.
Bjerregaard actually started his round with a bogey to immediately fall eight shots behind the leader, but there was little fuss from the tall, muscular golfer as he went out in 35 with two birdies and one more dropped shot, before catching fire on the back nine. Blessed with a hot putter, he made hay while the sun didn’t shine.
“I putted really well. Made good ones on 16 and 17, both were about six metres. I didn’t make any really long ones, but I made some good par putts on the front nine, a couple of six-footers to make par and keep things going,” he said.
The strangely cool weather looks set to give way to a typical scorcher in Malelane on Sunday and, while Grace has led wire-to-wire thus far, the threat is writ large from several golfers below him.
Even the little-known Englishman Andrew Johnston is in the mix after he eagled the 18th to complete a 68 that put him on 12-under.
Louis Oosthuizen also eagled the last hole after a magnificent seven-iron to five feet and he is also not out of the running on 10-under-par after a 68.