European golf's man of the moment Pablo Martin extended his lead in the South African Open Championship to three shots in his third round at Pearl Valley Golf Estates.
Winner of last week's Alfred Dunhill Championship, the 23 year old Spaniard was two in front at halfway and after saving par from 18 feet at the second he made a 25 footer at the next and then two-putted the long fifth for another birdie.
Martin, in danger of losing his European Tour card last month and 488th in the world when he travelled to South Africa, was up to 13 under par as a result.
Compatriot Alejandro Canizares, son of former Ryder Cup player Jose Maria, had become his closest challenger by then after hitting back from an opening bogey with three birdies in the next four.
Only South Africans have won the title in the last eight years, but Italian Omega Mission Hills World Cup winner Edoardo Molinari was in joint third place at nine under with Dane Anders Hansen and leading home hope Louis Oosthuizen.
Martin flew over the green on the seventh and hit a spectator on the head. But the man appeared okay and so was the Malaga golfer when he holed from 20 feet for par.
His success with the putter ended, though, when he failed to get up and down on the short eighth and after another bogey at the ninth - he was bunkered in two - he dropped into a tie with Canizares on 11 under.
Oosthuizen made a horrible blunder on the seventh. Going to tap in a bogey putt he caught the ground and did not make contact with the ball, so a six went on his card and he dropped from third to fifth.
It brought back memories of the 1983 Open Championship at Birkdale when Hale Irwin did the same thing in his third round and a day later lost by one to Tom Watson.
Martin steadied the ship again with a two on the short 12th and his lead went back to three when Canizares pitched into the water at the difficult long 14th and ran up a seven. With five to play in the round Martin was 12 under and joint second were Molinari, Hansen and former winner James Kingston.
|T4||ANDERSSON HED, Fredrik||SWE||18||-11|
|T6||MARTIN BENAVIDES, Pablo||ESP||18||-10|