Saturday, 27 January 2001
Hennie Otto takes a two shot lead into the final round of the Mercedes-Benz South African Open after grinding out a third round 71 in testing conditions at East London Golf Club. Otto leads fellow South African Roger Wessels with Zimbabwe’s Mark McNulty and England’s Justin Rose a further shot adrift on seven under par.

Otto, who has led from the start, struggled to find the fairway throughout but held on to his lead with a series of up and downs and par saving putts. Three early birdies were cancelled by an equal number of bogeys but Otto moved clear of his nearest rivals with a birdie on the 13th and then holed a long, curling putt on the 17th to 11 under. The Qualifying School graduate bogeyed the last but his one under par 71 was nevertheless a brave performance.

Otto will be seeking his first win since earning Membership of the European Tour, his best performance to date being joint sixth in the Scottish PGA Championship last season.

His nearest challenger is Roger Wessels, another player seeking his maiden title on the European Tour. Wessels turned up the heat with a birdie on the 15th after chipping close but a hooked drive on the last cost him a shot as he completed a round of 72.

Rose, runner-up to Adam Scott last week in the Alfred Dunhill Championship equalled the best round of the day with a fine four under par 68 to move into contention for the second successive week. Austrian Marcus Brier also shot a 68.

McNulty shot a three under par 69 as he chases his 16th European Tour title and first since 1996.

Englishman Greg Owen was right in the thick of things with three holes to play, but was unable to capitalise on a birdie opportunity on the 16th then double bogeyed the par three 17th. After coming up short with his tee shot, Owen chipped weakly and then three putted to lose ground on Otto. A further dropped shot on the last left him on six under par after a 74.

Also in the group on six under are other Qualifying School graduates Simon Dyson, winner of three titles on the Asian Tour last year, and Justin Hobday and Ryder Cup player Thomas Bjorn.

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