Saturday, 01 December 2018
Justin Harding  (Getty Images)
Justin Harding (Getty Images)

South African Justin Harding produced a sparkling 64 in tricky conditions on Saturday to join Kurt Kitayama at the top of the leaderboard ahead of the final round of the tri-sanctioned Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open at Anahita.

In-form Harding, who has won twice on both the Asian Tour and the Sunshine Tour in 2018, made eight birdies and no bogeys in his third round to grab a share of the lead on 16 under par.

Meanwhile, halfway leader Kitayama carded three birdies and a single bogey to sign for a 70.

S Chikkarangappa, Matthieu Pavon and Masahiro Kawamura were three shots behind the co-leaders in a tie for third.

Harding came into the day six shots off the lead but started his third round with a bang, reeling off three birdies in a row from the long second before following up another gain at the sixth with a monster birdie putt on the eighth green to move into contention.

The confident 32 year old then sent his approach at the 11th straight over the flag before knocking in his 15-foot putt for yet another birdie.

He tapped in from close range at the long 13th to get to 15 under and found himself in a tie at the top alongside Kitayama shortly after when the American dropped his only shot of the day on the 12th.

France's Victor Perez briefly joined the pair at the summit after picking up a third straight birdie at the 13th but carded a double bogey and two bogeys in his next four holes to fall back into the chasing pack.

Kitayama regained the outright lead with a birdie at the 13th but Harding was soon back alongside him at the top after rolling in his short birdie putt at the 18th to equal the lowest round of the week so far.

Harding is looking forward to Sunday's final round.

He said: "I never really like to think about things as I walk down the holes but I really felt like I played pretty well today. 

"I had good control, especially in the first ten to 13 holes. I kind of felt like I could birdie every hole out there.

"I certainly gave myself a few chances. The toughest stretch of the course is the 14th, 15th and 16th.

"I got off to my good start and it was just more about making some good pars there and at the end of the day I did the job and put myself in a decent position to get the result tomorrow.

"I have a pretty good attitude in terms of holding leads. I kind of like the guys coming at me rather than having to chase. 

"I sometimes get in my own way when I’m chasing. So, I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice, I’m quite happy. It’s a job well done."

Kitayama came into day three with a two-stroke lead and briefly increased that advantage to four shots after picking up birdies at the long second and fourth holes to get to 16 under.

The Qualifying School graduate then showed his fighting qualities, producing a series of stunning par saves to remain in control.

But after watching his chip at the short 12th hit the slope and land back at his feet, Kitayama dropped his first shot of the day to surrender the outright lead and join a charging Harding on 15 under.

Kitayama bounced back immediately with a birdie from five feet at the long 13th to return to 16 under before parring his final five holes.

He said: "Today played a little tougher.

"Being in the last group added a little more pressure. I made two birdies in the first four holes and I ground it out, made a bogey on the back and followed it up with another birdie.

"I’m not sure if being in the lead will affect me. Let’s see how I’m feeling in the morning, how the wind is and see if I can hit as many drivers as I did on the first two days. Then, I will make adjustments along the way."

Challenge Tour graduate Perez was alone in sixth place on 12 under following his third-round 71, one shot ahead of Irishman Gavin Moynihan.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T2S, ChikkarangappaIND18-18
T2PAVON, MatthieuFRA18-18
4HARDING, JustinRSA18-17
T5KAWAMURA, MasahiroJPN18-16

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