Sterne and Fisher Jnr face differing tests

2/9/2013 2:30:00 PM
Trevor Fisher Junior  (Getty Images)
Trevor Fisher Junior (Getty Images)
Richard Sterne and Trevor Fisher Junior will enter the final round of the Joburg Open boasting a five shot lead over the rest of the field - and contrasting experience of the situation they find themselves in.

The South African pair participated in a titanic battle for supremacy on day three at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC, with top spot changing hands on numerous occasions.

Closing birdies lifted both to 19 under and extended their advantage over a quartet of players in third, including a two time winner of this event in Charl Schwartzel.

Schwartzel kept a bogey off his card today in a 68 that matched the efforts of Sterne and Fisher Junior, although things almost unravelled for the 2011 Masters Tournament Champion at the par five last, when he sent his approach right before pitching into a scoreboard.

A fine up and down ensured Schwartzel, who has won his last two events by a combined total of 23 shots, saved par to remain alongside Felipe Aguilar, Jaco van Zyl and George Coetzee; the latter birdied the final three holes to make up for an otherwise frustrating day.

Sterne's last European Tour victory came back in December 2008, but he knows what it takes to win this tournament having done so earlier that year.

The 31 year old was also at the heart of the action last Sunday when finishing second at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and admitted: “It's quite draining for two weeks in a row, but I'd rather be here than in the middle of the pack. The heart is pumping quite fast out there.”

Fisher Junior claimed three wins on the Sunshine Tour last year, taking his tally to seven in all, yet victory here would represent a breakthrough success.

His best European Tour finish came when he finished third at this venue last January, so it is hardly surprising that he admitted to feeling slightly uncomfortable for parts of his third round.

"A bit of nerves set in there," he explained. "You try not to think about the lead, but it's there in front of you.

"I was a bit jumpy with the swing and wasn't waiting at the top, so I hit a few bad shots there. But I came back nicely with a few birdies. It's just a feeling, and you've got to try and feel comfortable out there as much as possible."

Despite his nervourness, Fisher Junior was able to remain comfortably clear of everyone bar Sterne after resuming on 15 under, three ahead of Coetzee.

Both overnight leaders picked up shots at the first and Sterne then birdied six and seven, only to be surpassed by his playing partner, who finished his outward nine with three successive birdies.

Consecutive bogeys for Fisher Junior saw him slip behind Sterne, who birdied 11. However, the former was soon back on track with two more gains and both men then recovered from dropped shots at 15 with fours on the long 18th.

As an enjoyable tussle unfolded in the final group, Schwartzel, winner here in 2010 and 2011, moved ominously into contention with birdies at one, eight, 12 and 15.

Aguilar was another to shoot 68, while van Zyl's 67 was bettered only by Garth Mulroy and Thomas Aiken, who went round in 65 and 66 respectively to climb into a tie for eighth at 12 under.