Louis Oosthuizen saw his advantage reduced to three shots by Ernie Els as the third round of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions began at Mission Hills.
South African Oosthuizen had carded a brilliant second round 63 to establish a five shot halfway lead – the same margin he held after two rounds when he cantered to a seven shot victory at the 2010 Open Championship – but compatriot Els capitalized on the 30 year old’s steady start to close the gap.
Oosthuizen had to wait four holes for his first birdie of the day, and followed it with a three-putt bogey at the fifth to be level par for the day and remain 16 under.
Open Champion Els, who matched his compatriot’s course record on Friday, took advantage with birdies at the third and fourth to be only three behind, while England’s Lee Westwood came charging into third on 12 under.
The World Number Four was producing an imperious display of approach play as he birdied five of his first seven holes to soar up the leaderboard.
A magnificent approach to three feet at the seventh set up an eagle three for Els, meaning Oosthuizen saw his lead reduced to two despite birdieing the same hole.
Westwood birdied the ninth from eight feet to turn in 30, only four off the lead, with defending champion Martin Kaymer, US Ryder Cup star Jason Dufner and Ireland’s recent Portugal Masters champion Shane Lowry all tied for fourth on 12 under.