Charl Schwartzel (Getty Images)
Charl Schwartzel’s serene progress towards the Alfred Dunhill Championship title was abruptly halted by the weather in South Africa as the final round was suspended for two hours at Leopard Creek.
An incredible ten shots clear with a round to play, the 28 year old was still leading by eight from Grégory Bourdy when a thunderstorm suspended play at 14:23 local time before resuming at 16:20.
A week on from winning the Thailand Golf Championship by 11 shots – the biggest margin recorded on Tour this year – the 2011 Masters Tournament champion turned in a level par 35 to remain 21 under par.
In an event he won in 2005 and has finished second in four times since, Schwartzel was looking unlikely to equal the lowest-ever 72 holes to par – set at 29 under by Ernie Els at the 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic – but still had an outside chance of breaking Tiger Woods’ 15 shot winning margin at the US Open Championship, the largest in European Tour history.
Schwartzel’s run of seven straight pars at the start of the day was broken when he missed a five footer for par at the eighth, but he hit straight back with an approach that spun back to two feet at the ninth.
Frenchman Bourdy splashed out from a greenside bunker to a foot at the long second to set up a birdie, but missed the green at the next and failed to get up-and-down.
The 30 year old clearly hadn’t given up the chase entirely, however – he birdied the driveable sixth from five feet, then rolled in a 20 footer at the next to get to 13 under.
Last week’s winner Scott Jamieson was alongside Andy Sullivan and Garth Mulroy in third on 11 under.
Remarkably there was also a third hole-in-one of the week at the 12th – although this time it was not Keith Horne.
The South African had been given a car after acing the par three on Friday and Saturday, and with a BMW 6 Series Grand Coupe on offer for the final round, Swede Magnus A Carlsson duly sunk his seven iron from 195 yards.
Schwartzel’s chances of at least matching Woods’ 15-shot winning margin increased with consecutive birdies at the 12th and 13th to take him ten clear again – but that was followed by three successive pars and holes were quickly running out for a tilt at the record books.