Saturday, 15 January 2011
Charl Schwartzel  (Getty Images)
Charl Schwartzel (Getty Images)

Defending champion Charl Schwartzel and his compatriots Thomas Aiken and Garth Mulroy share the lead going into the final round of a wide-open Joburg Open.

The South African trio all had similar efforts on day three, with Schwartzel and Mulroy - both part of a three-way tie for the lead at the halfway stage - going around the par 71 East Course of the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club in two under 69s.

Aiken, who was a shot behind at the start of the day, managed the best round of the trio, a 68, as the leaders ended on 15 under overall.

Their closest challenge was coming from Scotland's David Drysdale after his four under 67 put him a shot further back, while English pair Ben Evans (67) and Jamie Elson (71) were tied on 13 under - the latter amongst the top trio after two rounds.

Jean-Baptiste Gonnet from France was tied with them to sit two shots of the leaders, with Welshman Jamie Donaldson recording the round of the day score of 65 to move onto 11 under.

Four other players were with him - Swede Oscar Floren (66), Antti Ahokas (68) of Finland and South African duo Allan Versfeld (70) and Branden Grace (71).

The big battle, though, looks set to take place at the top of the leaderboard as the co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event reaches its climax.

Aiken, who led for most of the day after carding four birdies and a bogey on the par three 16th, believes someone outside the leading trio could produce a sting in the tail.

"Golf's a funny game, you can get someone shooting a 62 to come from behind, so you never know," he said.

"You need to concentrate on what you need to do, go out there and whatever happens out there happens."

Trying to explain why low scoring was hard to come by today, the 27 year old, a seven-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, added: "There were two difficult things out there today. One was the wind and the other thing was the pin placements, which were in some really nasty positions.

"I did what I needed to do, didn't do anything ridiculously bad, but it just didn't want to go in the hole. Hopefully tomorrow it will go the other way."

Schwartzel missed several putts along the way as he ended with his worst score of the week so far - he shot 68 and 61 previously.

The 26 year old also felt that the wind had been in a factor in keeping scoring in check.

"It was a tough day out there today," he said. "The wind blew a lot and this course is not in one direction, it's in different ones, so it makes things difficult.

"It always swirls and makes it difficult to choose clubs."

The World Number 32, who is the highest ranked player in the field, also lamented his putting, adding: "I know I hit the ball well, but I left a few putts out there.

"I missed a few short ones, which weren't really bad ones, but just misread.

"Then I three-putted 15 and all of a sudden I knew I'm now on the back foot when I could have had quite a bit of momentum going my way.

"But no one really got away and I'm right in it for tomorrow."

After the overnight leaders all dropped early shots - Elson starting with a double bogey six - Aiken got his nose in front with an easy two-putt birdie on the sixth.

Schwartzel responded with a hattrick of gains approaching the turn, starting with an approach to six foot on the seventh.

Aiken hit a great third at the par five eighth after finding sand off the tee to set up a two foot birdie and retain his lead, and fired in a 15 footer at the tenth.

Mulroy refused to allow the tournament to develop into a two-horse race and fired his tee shot to six feet on the par three 12th, before holing from 20 feet at the next.


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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
2MULROY, GarthRSA18-15
3AIKEN, ThomasRSA18-14
4ELSON, JamieENG18-13
5GONNET, Jean-BaptisteFRA18-12
6JAMIESON, ScottSCO18-11
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