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Saturday, 26 November 2011
Hennie Otto  (Getty Images)
Hennie Otto (Getty Images)

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A brilliant back nine 30 gave Hennie Otto a three shot lead going into the final round of the SA Open Championship.

Otto played the last 12 holes of his third round at Serengeti in a superb eight under par and with a 65 moved onto the 14 under par total of 202.

The 35 year old, whose one European Tour victory came at the 2008 Italian Open, is now three in front of twice champion Retief Goosen, their fellow South Africans Thomas Aiken and last week's winner Garth Mulroy and also Swede Magnus Carlsson.

Halfway leader Steven O'Hara, who needs a top-three finish to secure his European Tour card for next season, is back in a tie for eighth spot after a 74 in which he covered the first 14 holes in a sorry five over, but then birdied the final three holes.

Otto was four behind O'Hara at the start of the day and did his hopes no good by playing the first six holes in one over, but he then started his charge through the field with birdies at the seventh, eighth and tenth, where he chipped in from the fringe.

An eagle on the 603 yard 11th lifted him right into the thick of the action and further birdies at the 12th, 15th and 17th, all from ten-15 feet, made him the man to catch.

Goosen looked as if he might do it, but bogeyed the last two for a 71 that fell far short of what he was hoping for after beginning his round with three straight birdies.

“The SA Open is our national championship, you always want to do well in it,” said Otto. “I’m in a better place than I used to be and I’m going one way and that’s not down.

“The greens were a bit quicker than the last two days. On these greens, if you hit it in the wrong place you three-putt.

“I started hitting it in the right places and I made more putts. That makes a big difference.”

Former Walker Cup player O'Hara has not won in 222 European Tour events and came into the week 134th on The Race to Dubai.

After playing so well for two days - he kicked off with a 65 and then added a 68 to lead on his own at halfway - it was a completely different story as he fell into the chasing pack.

But at least his finish re-ignited hopes of achieving at least the fifth place he requires to earn a start in next week's UBS Hong Kong Open, the last chance for those scrambling to earn their playing rights for next season.

Fellow Scot Lloyd Saltman is two places below O'Hara in the standings and he made it all the way to 12 under before coming unstuck on the back nine.

After a bogey on the long 11th the former amateur star double-bogeyed the 13th and 14th and after a 72 he will resume in joint 21st spot.

Ex-Ryder Cup pair Phillip Price and Oliver Wilson, both of whom find themselves in the card fight, are 31st and 43rd respectively following rounds of 73.

Price is currently 117th on The Race to Dubai, just inside the cut-off mark, but Wilson is down in 133rd.

Carlsson, Keith Horne, Alvaro Velasco and Richard Bland are all outside the top 118 as well, and they all boosted their chances by climbing into the top ten, as did Austrian Markus Brier – who at 116th is firmly in the firing line of those looking to climb the rankings.

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