Saturday, 21 January 2012
Charl Schwartzel  (Getty Images)
Charl Schwartzel (Getty Images)
Masters Tournament winner Charl Schwartzel defied foul conditions to move into contention for the Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt in South Africa.

While Spaniard Pablo Martin failed to break 90 in the wind and rain Schwartzel produced a phenomenal front nine 32 to be only two behind his fellow South African Branden Grace.

With his Augusta National title defence now less than 11 weeks away, the 27 year old had birdies at the fourth and fifth and then eagled the 568 yard ninth.

He was up to eight under par as a result, while last week's Joburg Open winner Grace, four clear of the field at 12 under at halfway, bogeyed the first and third.

Dropping only two strokes over that stretch was far better than some managed, however.

England's Lee Slattery and Thomas Aiken, another of the home contingent in The European Tour winners-only event, were joint second overnight, but Slattery lost his opening drive and after a triple bogey seven there added a double bogey on the third.

Aiken, meanwhile, double-bogeyed the first and bogeyed the third.

As for Martin, he was down in 35th and last place on 18 over after a 90 that contained a quadruple bogey eight on the tenth, a triple bogey seven at the 14th, four double bogeys and two bogeys.

Grace's lead went back to three when Schwartzel three-putted the short 11th, but it was two again when Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, who broke the course record with a 64 on Thursday and then followed it with a 76, reached the turn in 34.

Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal and Ireland's Padraig Harrington were still in the hunt.

Olazábal, at 596th in the Official World Golf Ranking the lowest-ranked player in the field, had to take a penalty drop from the bushess off his wild opening drive, but he was six under after six holes, while Harrington was just behind him in joint sixth spot with six to play.

Open Champion Darren Clarke, however, bogeyed the first three holes and remained one under after 11 - he was playing with Schwartzel - and Colin Montgomerie was five over after double bogeys on the third and seventh in an outward 41.

Grace had to drop away from the bushes on the 439 yard seventh and with a third bogey of the day there, his lead was only one.

It was not just Colsaerts on his tail either. Schwartzel had his fifth birdie at the long 13th and Goosen, yet to bogey, completed a front-nine 34 with his second birdie.

Olazábal was two further back in fifth, but Harrington was five behind after taking six at the 13th. 

Grace fell into a tie with Schwartzel when he followed his two on the short 11th with a double-bogey, but another birdie at the next got his nose back in front.

That did not last for long, though, as first Goosen caught him with birdies on the 13th and 15th and then big-hitting Colsaerts made the first eagle of the day on the 549 yard last by holing a 50 foot putt.

They were all ten under, with Schwartzel one back, Olazábal two behind and Harrington round in 70 for seven under.

It was third-time lucky for the Irishman on the 18th. After two double-bogey sevens he two-putted for birdie. 

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
-ELS, ErnieRSA-12
-GOOSEN, RetiefRSA-12
-GRACE, BrandenRSA-12
-COLSAERTS, NicolasBEL-11
-SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA-10
-OLAZÁBAL, José MaríaESP-8
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