Sunday, 10 December 2017
The ninth green following bad weather on Sunday at the Joburg Open  (Getty Images)
The ninth green following bad weather on Sunday at the Joburg Open (Getty Images)

Shubhankar Sharma will try to defend a four-shot lead at the Joburg Open on Monday after heavy storms at Randpark Golf Club took the last European Tour event of 2017 into a fifth day.

The Indian entered the final round  with a five-shot lead and while he birdied two of his first seven holes to get to 22 under, South African Erik van Rooyen picked up four in his first eight to cut the gap to four.

Play was suspended at 1.00pm local time with Sharma safely on the eighth green and Van Rooyen looking at a tap-in after a glorious approach to the ninth.

The threat of lightning in the area quickly turned to heavy rain and hail storms and while every effort was made to get play completed on time, 42 players will return to the Firethorn Course to complete their rounds at 0730 on Monday morning.

England's James Morrison and Finn Tapio Pulkkanen were at 14 under, with the chasing pack seemingly battling it out for the third and final spot available to the top three for next year's Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links.

England's Marcus Armitage, Swede Christofer Blomstrand and South African Shaun Norris were at 13 under, a shot clear of Dean Burmester.

Sharma has five wins on the Professional Golf Tour of India but this would be his European Tour breakthrough after achieving an impressive top ten at the UBS Hong Kong Open two weeks ago.

"I'm going to treat it like another day," said Sharma. "I'm going to do the same things which I've been doing the last four days.

"It is not frustrating but you get into a groove when you start and you don't want to come off. I saw the clouds coming on the seventh hole and I was praying we could finish but we can't help it. I'm playing well so I want to continue doing that.

"I had to cancel my flight tickets today but that was an easy thing to do considering the position I'm in."

Every member of the final two groups parred the first, with the gettable par five second presenting the first good chance for anyone to close the gap on Sharma.

None of Armitage, Pulkkanen and Van Rooyen could take advantage and when the final group arrived, it was Sharma who made a birdie to extend his lead to six shots.

Van Rooyen moved into a share of second with a smart approach to six feet on the third, with Pulkkanen also making a birdie to get to 14 under.

I'm going to treat it like another day. I'm going to do the same things which I've been doing the last four days - Subhankar Sharma

Pulkkanen gave the shot straight back on the next but Van Rooyen made it two birdies in a row to get to 16 under, with Armitage also making a gain.

Van Rooyen - who finished third in last season's Challenge Tour standings - was flying and an excellent tee-shot into the par three fifth brought another birdie and cut the gap to four.

Pulkkanen also made a birdie with Armitage dropping a shot, while all of the final group made pars on the fourth.

Blomstrand dropped a shot on the fifth and it was starting to look like a two-horse race - with Van Rooyen in second, three shots clear of the rest.

That looked even more likely as Sharma holed a 12-footer on the sixth to move five ahead and Van Rooyen rolled in a monster ahead on the seventh to keep the pressure on.

Another dropped shot from Blomstrand on the seventh looked likely to end his hopes for victory but the battle for Open spots was very much on, with Norris turning in 33 to get to 13 under.

Burmester picked up four shots in 15 holes to sit a shot ahead of Oliver Bekker, Mark Foster, Joachim B Hansen, Ross McGowan, Victor Perez and Paul Peterson.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1SHARMA, ShubhankarIND18-23
T3NORRIS, ShaunRSA18-17
5ARMITAGE, MarcusENG18-15
T6HANSEN, Joachim B.DEN18-13

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