Retief Goosen, winner of the US and Scottish Open Championships, edged closer to a first success in his native event, the Bell’s South African Open, at The Country Club, Durban. Goosen shot a third round 69 for a ten under par total of 206 and a share of second place with England’s Jonathan Lomas, two strokes behind local favourite, Tim Clark.
Clark, bidding to win the title after leading Monday’s pre-qualifying competition, fired a four under par 68 in the hot, blustery conditions to lead the championship with a 12 under par aggregate of 204.
Only six shots cover the leading 18 players in the field, but Goosen reckons he needs to find some magic with his putter if he is going to prevail. For the second day running, he chipped in for a eagle three to help his momentum.
Goosen used his three wood to deadly effect at the par five eightth, holing his shot after the ball had come to rest against a collar of rough around the green. He laughed: “I’ve been struggling on the greens all week and the only things I’ve made seem to have been chip-ins.
“I am playing okay but not great. I’m struggling to read the greens, but hopefully tomorrow I can make a couple of putts to get me going. It’s very tight at the top so it’s going to be an interesting day. There are probably still 20 guys in this, including Ernie (Els), who is six shots back.”
Clark, who is due to resume his career on the US PGA Tour after missing a year with a wrist injury, is a course specialist at The Country Club, and admits he would not be unhappy if the wind continues to blow in the final round.
“I’ve played here in the wind many times before and I enjoy it” he said. “I will be happy if it does blow as I am swinging really nicely. If I can keep hitting the greens and leaving myself with easy par putts, then hopefully the birdies will come.”
Lomas, whose one and only victory on The European Tour came in the Czech Open six years ago, shares second place after a fighting 71 in which he bogeyed the first two holes. Despite that poor start, he came home in 34 to move into a second place tie with Goosen.
The Englishman, now based in Ayrshire in Scotland, attributed his improved form to a putting tip he received during the Mauritius Open late last year. He said: “I am friendly with a Belgian bloke, Pierre Nouvelle, who sponsors Phil Golding. He told me I wasn’t keeping my head still and I’ve tried to work on that. It seems to have helped.”
Alastair Forsyth of Scotland and England’s Steve Webster are among a group sharing fourth place on 207, nine under par, while Welshman Jamie Donaldson made one of the biggest moves of the day, shooting a 66 for 208 and ninth spot.
Els, after a round of 68, is on 210 and still believes he has an outside chance of victory. He said: “It all depends on what the other guys do. I think if I am within six strokes of the lead it’s possible. I am playing better each day and hopefully I can play tomorrow without mistakes.”