South Africa’s Trevor Immelman and Rory Sabbatini conjured up the low round of the week – a nine under par 63 – to establish an impressive seven stroke lead going into the last day of the World Golf Championships – World Cup over the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
Playing the fourball better-ball format, Immelman and Sabbatini went to the turn in 30 to burn off the opposition and an inward 33 resulted in a 63 which left them on a 14 under par total of 202, with France and the United States with a considerable deficit to make up on 209, seven under.
Now the South Africans, who won in Japan two years ago when represented by Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, aim to secure another victory with a sound performance in the unpredictable foursomes, which has tripped many a player in the past.
“I would take 18 pars right now and run” said Sabbatini. “I have to say that our 63 is a pretty impressive effort.The course is tough and nothing's easy, even when there is not a breath of wind.”
Immelman, aming for a $700,000 early wedding present ahead of his impending nuptials on December 2, admitted: "We got off to a great start with three straight birdies and that got us settled down. We played the front nine as good as you can play and it was fantastic to go out there and play so well."
While South Afrcia signed for a dream score of 63, Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin and Thomas Levet compiled a four under par 68, a score matched by Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard of the United States. In normal circumstances both rounds would have represented a good day’s work, but South Africa’s effort took centre stage.
The French team reached eight under par with three holes remaining – including the par five 16th – but were undone by their only bogey of the round when a birdie might have propelled them within sight of the leaders.
Jacquelin said: “It’s going to be very difficult for us now. I feel the South Africans only really need to put the ball on the fairway but we have always known that foursomes is the key to doing well this week and we played pretty well in that format yesterday.
“The 16th was very disappointing. We were hoping to get a birdie to try to put some pressure on South Africa and to make a bogey was not good. Maybe we forced things a little too much. However there is still a lot to play for.”
Levet added: “Foursomes can be very unpredictable and we have a lot of work to do tomorrow to give ourselves an outside chance, but it’s not impossible. They could shoot 75 and we shoot 67. I think we have to be a little more aggressive tomorrow and in foursomes that can be a dangerous game, but it’s a tactic we probably need to use if we want to try and win.”
Germany and Sweden both carded 67s to tie for fourth place on 211, with England, Scotland and Spain a further shot behind and chasing the minor places. A round of 66 was a matter of some satisfaction to Paul Casey and Justin Rose of England, and the former said: “I thought we kept the ball in play pretty nicely and it was good to come home in 32.
“I chipped in for a nice eagle at the 11th but South Africa are too far ahead for us to catch them. However if we keep working away I think we have a chance to pinch second place. Overall – frustrated by happy.”
Ireland, who won at Kiawah Island six years ago when the World Cup was played under different guidelines, produced their best effort of the three days, a round of 66, to get back to one over par for the tournament.