South Africans Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel share a one shot lead going into the final round of the World Golf Championships-CA Championship at Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, America.
Ireland’s three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington is right in the thick of things, despite three-putting the last hole for his only bogey of the day.
A superb round of 67 leaves Harrington on 11 under par, one behind Els and Schwartzel.
Els, one in front of Australian Robert Allenby at the halfway stage, had a chance to establish a firm grip on the event, but missed from four feet at the 13th hole and three feet on the 16th.
“I felt a little uncomfortable on those shorter putts today,” said Els, who is seeking his first European Tour victory since the 2007 HSBC World Match Play Championship.
“I think it could have been the breeze. I’m six foot four, and I move around a little bit - or so it feels anyway. I think it was a bit of a weak point today, and it basically cost me a little bit.
“Coming down the stretch, I missed one on the 12th hole which came back at me, and then I had a good one on 14, missed 15, and then a short one on 16. So if those putts had gone in, it would’ve been a very, very good day. But I can’t complain too much, and I’m looking forward to playing with Charl tomorrow.
“It’s great for South African golf, obviously, and it’s also great for world golf, with a new young star really starting to make his mark this year. He’s won twice already this year, so he’s a force to be reckoned with.
“When we started my foundation, this is what we were after. Although Charl was an affiliated member with us, he travelled with the team. Tomorrow, we shake hands and play 18 holes as hard as we can. He’s going to try and win. I’m going to try and win. It should be great.”
Schwartzel, twice a winner in his home country already this year, matched Harrington’s round of 67.
“I’ve won two tournaments earlier in the year but obviously this is a lot bigger than any others that I’ve won,” said the 25 year old.
“But when it comes down to winning, you’ve still got to make the putts and hit the shots. So I’ll just keep reminding myself that I have won and that I can do it. I’ll give it my best shot.
“It’ll be great to be playing with Ernie – I used to watch a lot of his golf tapes of him to try to copy his swing. I’ll get a nice look close up tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m sure we’ll have a good day. When you go out on the golf course, it’s every man for himself. I’m sure we’ll have a good time and a good battle.”
Harrington missed a birdie chance from under six feet on the opening green, but made amends from similar range at the fifth and birdied the long eighth as well.
His big move, though, came on the back nine when he picked up further strokes at the 11th, 12th, 16th and 17th hole, the last of those coming courtesy of a scarcely credible 379-yard drive downwind.
But he admitted that his bogey at the last had spoiled his day somewhat.
“That finish leaves a sour taste but it has no effect on the outcome tomorrow,” said the Dubliner. “Who plays the best is going to win.
“I putted all right today, and I hit a good second putt on the last. But that’s done now, and it’s all about tomorrow – I’ll certainly take another 67.
“I had a good attitude in my preparation at the WGC Match Play, a good attitude last week and it’s starting to bear fruits now on the golf course. I’m ready to go tomorrow. I’m prepared to win the tournament, and I’m in a good position. Now I just have to put it together.”
Allenby is in fourth place two back, while German Martin Kaymer (on eight under par), England’s Paul Casey and Denmark’s Søren Hansen (both on seven under) are not out of the running either.
Second and fourth in his last two events – and three times a winner last season before tearing a rib muscle – Casey could go second in the Official World Golf Ranking with a victory.
“I feel I’m coming into the prime of my career,” he said. “I’ve gone through ups and downs, and I’m just coming off an injury.”
Kaymer, Europe’s best putter last season, showed American golf fans what he was capable of, needing only 22 putts in his best-of-the-day round of 66.
Already a winner in Abu Dhabi this season, he is currently eighth in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I’ve been working very hard on my putting for the last two weeks and so one day it should pay off,” said The Ryder Cup hopeful, who was forced to take two months off last year after breaking three toes in a go-kart accident.
Titanium plates were inserted in his foot after that, but they will be coming out after the Masters Tournament next week.
“I thought it was going to be later in the season, but I can’t go running – I can’t do anything really. So I talked to my doctor, and he said he can take them out.”