Martin Maritz, a tall, powerful South African who modelled his swing on Ernie Els, successfully emulated his hero at Houghton Golf Club to carry a two stroke lead into the final round of the dunhill championship.
Maritz, 24, fired a third round 63 for a 17 under par total of 199 just hours after Els also shot a nine under par 63 to put himself right in contention for the title he last won in his home city three years ago.
With eight birdies in the first 11 holes, Maritz threatened to break 60 – a feat he once achieve in a social game – but the putts stayed out over the closing holes and he improved by one shot on his second round effort to lead by two from Mark Foster, winner of the European Challenge Tour last year.
Foster, fourth in the Omega Hong Kong Open on his second European Tour start, further underlined his potential by shooting s 65 for 201 to secure a place in the final grouping alongside Maritz.
England’s Sandeep Grewal, halfway leader with Roger Wessels, will have the honour of partnering Els after carding a composed 68 for 202. Els, Paul McGinley, Justin Rose and Wessels are all tied on 203, with last year’s runner-up Rose recording his second successive 66 to move into contention.
The stated intention of Maritz is to play on The European Tour and, like his compatriot Tim Clark, winner of last week’s Bell’s South African Open, has knows that his dream is now tantalisingly close if he can win and earn a two year exemption.
“In about 24 hours my life can change” he said. “Winning was definitely my goal coming into this week and hopefully I’ll be sitting here tomorrow with good news.”
He added: “To shoot two 64s and a 63 in a week’s span is a first for me and I’ve very excited about my golf at the moment and I think I can still improve. I led at this stage of the South African PGA last year and finished third so I think I will be more comfortable in the lead this time.”
Like Els, he was a rugby player as a schoolboy, but when he reached six feet tall, decided that he was not the right build to be a fly-half and concentrated on golf, and to be like South African legend Els. He added: “I’ve always wanted to swing like Ernie since I was a young boy or 12 or 13. If my swing can be half as good as his swing then I’ll be happy”
Foster, meanwhile, offered further proof that winning the Challenge Tour Rankings is the sign of true quality. He commented: “I was hoping that winning the Challenge Tour would give me confidence and self-belief. It certainly gives you a lot of experience for situations like this. The standard has improved and the cut marks are lower. It gives you good experience of travel and four round tournments.”
Earlier, Els had recovered from a frustrating 72 on Friday by firing nine birdies and a closing eagle in his round of 63, which was marred by bogeys at the two par threes on the front nine.
“At least I’ve got a shot at it tomorrow” he said. “I felt goof on the range this morning. My swing felt nice and tight at the top and I felt I could hit the ball solidly. It’s good that I shot my lowest round for quite a while.”
The most remarkable shot of the day could not have been scripted by Hollywood. South African James Kingston hit a horrible hook with a four iron off the 15th tee, but the ball struck the branches and dropped onto the green before trickling into the hole for an ace.
That hole in one earned him a £20,000 Audi TT Coupé. He laughed: “That’s my fourth hole in one. The previous three times I hit great shots and earned nothing. Now I hit a terrible shot and win a car. It shows what a funny game golf can be.”