Saturday, 17 December 2005

Reuters - Local favourites Retief Goosen and Ernie Els will go out in the final grouping on Sunday after both shot four under par 69s in the third round of the South African Airways Open at The Links Golf Club at Fancourt, George, South Africa.

Goosen, on seven under par overall, takes a three shot lead over Els into the final round after England’s overnight leader, Ross Fisher from Wentworth Club, slipped to three under par following a five over par round of 78.

Fisher, who held a five shot advantage over Goosen at the halfway stage,  is tied third with another South African, Darren Fichardt, who also carded a 69 on Saturday.

Els, who opened with a 76 and was tied for ninth after a second round 70, roared up the leaderboard on Saturday with four birdies and an eagle, offset by two bogeys. The three-times South African Airways Open champion said he was thrilled to be going head to head with Goosen, who won the title in 1995 at Randpark in Johannesburg.

"It will be great to play with Retief because it looks like he's playing very well. We were together in '95 at Randpark when he didn't let up and beat me by quite a few shots. It will be special tomorrow for the crowd and the tournament and it will be like a Major for us," Els said.

The South African, who won last week's dunhill championship at Leopard Creek, said he was extremely pleased by his form, having returned from a five month break for knee surgery.

"I've been swinging good and hitting the ball really well this week and I'm delighted to be back in contention," he added.

Goosen, whose round included just one dropped shot - a bogey at the par-five 13th hole - said he was still battling with his swing. "I feel like my game has been stuck the last year and I've not been hitting the ball as well as I can," he said.

"I'm happy to be playing with Ernie tomorrow, I always enjoy it. It's good for everybody. But this is playing like a ‘Majors’ course so I'll have to play really solid tomorrow if I'm going to win."

An eagle at the par five fifth, when he sunk a 30 foot putt, gave Goosen a share of the lead as Fisher's waywardness off the tee was punished by two bogeys in the first three holes.

The talented young Englishman’s faulty driving caused him more trouble on the par five 16th when he took two more shots to get out of the thick rough, leading to a double bogey. Fisher, who was six over par for the back nine at that stage, managed to birdie the last hole for a rare moment of satisfaction on a difficult day.

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