Mark Murless, born in Johannesburg and raised on the fairways of Royal Johannesburg and Kensington GC, stands just 18 holes away from victory in his home city.
Murless, bidding to secure an all-the-way win in the Joburg Open, birdied the final hole on the East Course at RJK for an 11 under par total of 202 and a two shot lead over a trio of players in Tyrone Ferreira of South Africa, Pablo Larrazabal of Spain and Germany’s Sven Strüver.
A total of six players lie in a share of fifth place on 205, eight under par, including the man with the most impressive winning pedigree in the field, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, and 2007 Challenge Tour Number Two, Ross McGowan.
Numerous players made a run at Murless, who had led by one shot at halfway, and towards the end of the third round, it appeared that the leader was faltering. He missed the 17th green from 90 metres and took a reckless bogey while in control of the tournament, but responded with a 12 foot birdie effort at the last.
His round of 69 was enough to put more daylight between him and his rival going into the final day in front of friends and family in Johannesburg and he said: “I felt really and hit everything nice and solid until about the turn. Then, for some reason, I started to struggle a little bit.
“I I don’t what happened on 17 when I missed the green from 90 metres. Maybe it was a little bit of adrenaline and it came out a bit hot and I had a bad lie in the bunker for my third. However after both my playing partners made birdie on the last green I had to follow them in form one of my own!”
Strüver, who won the last of his three European Tour titles 10 years ago in Switzerland, produced a mixed bag of five birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in his third round 66 for a nine under par total of 204 while 20 year old Ferreira, playing in his first professional event, eagled the final hole for a round of 69. Larrazabal, meanwhile made up three shots in the final six holes to join the group in second place.
McGowan enjoyed the best round of the day over the East Course, a seven under par 64, to move into contention for his first European Tour title to add to his pair of victories on the Challenge Tour last season.
He started on a high as he birdied the par four first hole, thanks to changing his approach after a 75 in the second round that almost meant he was a goner, scraping through the cut by just two strokes.
"I was pretty annoyed last night and I decided to be more aggressive," McGowan said. "On the first I hit a six iron to four feet and that birdie got me going. I was very surprised that the cut was made at level par, but I wasn't too disappointed with the way I played yesterday, I played well."
Fellow Englishman Paul Waring, in his first season as a professional, picked up four birdies on the first eight holes on his way to a 69 and a share of fifth place. Waring, the 23 year old 2005 English Amateur Champion from Bromborough near Liverpool, is on the same mark as Clarke, McGowan, South Africans Garth Mulroy and Chris Williams and Swede Magnus Carlsson.