Van der Walt joins Oosthuizen out in front

1/7/2012 3:00:54 PM
Tjaart van der Walt  (Getty Images)
Tjaart van der Walt (Getty Images)
Louis Oosthuizen and Tjaart van der Walt both birdied the last to share the lead after a fascinating third round of the Africa Open.

Defending champion Oosthuizen began the day with a two shot lead, but with favourable scoring conditions once again prevalent at East London Golf Club, the former Open Champion was soon caught.

The 28 year old actually birdied his first three holes, but his lead was halved when van der Walt matched that feat and then went one better at the next.

Remarkably van der Wath’s four under par for the first four holes was a shot worse than he managed on Friday, when he had a hole in one at the second and eagle three at the long next.

Both players converted short birdie putts at the seventh, but van der Walt lost his drive in trees to the right at the next and despite a brave third after a penalty drop suffered a bogey.

He birdied the next to turn in 32, and it was Oosthuizen’s turn to produce a wild drive at the 11th as he bogeyed the par five, having needed four shots to find the green.

“It was an elementary mistake really,” he said. “Those little chip-outs seem easy, and I made the basic error of leaving it short of a tree for my approach to the green.”

Van der Walt birdied the same hole to snatch the lead, alongside Retief Goosen, who had seven birdies in his first 13 holes.

But two-time Major Champion Goosen could only par his final five holes, and Oosthuizen fought back with three birdies in the last four as he joined van der Walt on 21 under par.

Goosen, remarkably without a European Tour title for five years, is one further back after a 66, while England’s Danny Willett compiled a 65 to sit fourth on 19 under.

“At the end of the day, the golf ball doesn’t know that they are Major Champions,” said van der Walt on the battle with his two illustrious compatriots.

“I’ve played at the highest level, I’ve never won Majors or big events, so who knows what can happen.”

Van der Walt, who turned professional in 1996, has yet to win a tournament.

“I do feel as if I am controlling the golf ball as well as I have in a long time,” he said. “Not just tee to green, but on the greens as well. And that’s a good sign for me.

“I’m entitled to forget the one bad shot I hit all day [on the eighth]. I hit a bad tee shot, but luckily for me I was able to get a good drop on line of sight. I managed to get it on the green – and almost made the putt.”

The best score of the day belonged to Richard Sterne, the five-time European Tour winner making his first appearance for 11 months after a serious back injury.

There were few signs of rustiness as he produced a fine nine under 64.