Adam Scott and Justin Rose, born only 14 days apart in 1980 and whose combined ages fall three short of Nick Faldo’s total, spearheaded the youthful challenge in the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg as the six-time major champion attempted to strike a blow for the old order.
After a day of spectacular scoring in the South Africa sunshine, Scott (born July 16th) held a slender one stroke lead over Rose (born July 30th) and first round leader Dean Robertson – positively ancient at 30 – while Faldo, a sprightly 43, is right in there with a chance of landing his first European Tour title since 1994.
Scott, flagged up as a potential superstar while still an amateur, carded a flawless seven under par 65 and, having lowered his scores progressively each day with a 67 and 66, leads on his own with an 18 under par total of 198.
The soft-spoken Australian holds the whip hand, but only just, with his 20 year old contemporary, Rose, on 199 after a round of 66. Robertson, who set the pace on Thursday with a course record 62, shares that mark while Faldo’s four under par 68 leaves him three behind in fourth spot on 201, 15 under par.
Scott has made rapid progress in the 12 months since he played in the Greg Norman Holden International in Sydney as a teenage amateur. Then, in the second round, he demonstrated his immense capabilities by firing a ten under par 63, a course record, and went on to finish 37th.
He turned professional on June 8, 2000 and made the European Tour his base, winning enough to secure his card as an Affiliate Member. At Houghton, Scott tore into the beautiful Johannesburg course, picking up birdies at the third, eighth, 13th, 16th and 18th while the highlight of his round was a superb eagle three at the fifth.
Rose, born in Johannesburg and watched every step of the way by his grandparents, seemed poised to assume the leadership of the tournament. The engaging young man who won the hearts of the public with his heroic feats in finisihing fourth in the 1998 Open Championship, launched into action with a hat-trick of birdies.
He picked up shots at the fifth, eighth and ninth to reach the turn in 30 blows, six under par, which propelled him two clear of the field. However the magic touch wasn’t as evident on the back nine as birdies at the 16th and 18th were offset by bogeys at the 12th and 17th.
Robertson, after a moderate start, finally clicked on the homeward journey with birdies at four of the closing six holes for a round of 67. Meanwhile Faldo maintained his momentum with four birdies at the fourth, eighth, 16th and 18th.
Scott was not fazed by leading on only his ninth start as a professional and commented: "I've been close to the lead before but not really done well to be honest.
At Loch Lomond I was two behind with four to play and bogeyed the last four holes and at the Irish Open I was three back with three to play and bogeyed two of the last three. It's a learning experience each time and hopefully I've learnt enough.
"Maybe it was a case of being too aggressive but I was just 19 then. Young and dumb! It was probably to be expected but I'm a veteran now! I've improved by a shot every day and would like to be another shot tomorrow. I think a 64 would be enough."
Rose turned professional the day after his sensational Open performance but missed 21 consecutive cuts and has had to make three visits to the European Tour Qualifying School to earn his card.
However his performances last season hinted again at his potential and all the hard work put in with coach David Leadbetter is paying dividends. He said: "My concentration was very good all the way round because it's easy to get ahead of yourself and think 'I'm leading'."
"It's a rewarding feeling being so close to the lead because I've put in a lot of hard work and the pressure of trying to win a tournament is far better than the pressure of trying to make a cut.
"There is always interest in what I'm doing because of the Open and everything is compared to that but I think people are beginning to respect me for some of the other things, like getting through Tour School twice.
"I've taken some big steps and the pleasing thing is whenever I have had to really perform I have managed to do it. That's quite gratifying. You obviously have winning in the back of your mind but you have to try and keep it there. It would be stupid to say I'm not thinking about it but I have to not let it rule my thoughts."
Scott, coached, like Darren Clarke and Tiger Woods by Butch Harmon, is tipped to become a big name in the game and Robertson believes he will be the man to beat on Sunday and for many years to come if he fulfils his enormous potential.
"Adam is a world beater. He has a big big future. He is the finished article, he oozes class. His swing is fantastic and he has a great temperament to go with it. I think he will win majors and compete with Woods in the future.
"He is going to be very hard to beat tomorrow because with his length, 68 is probably par for him and you can't see him shooting more than that."3rd round video highlights
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