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Matteo Manassero keeps his nose in front in South Africa

Matteo Manassero keeps his nose in front in South Africa

Matteo Manassero carded a third-round 67 to keep a low-scoring chasing pack at bay and maintain his one-shot lead heading into the final round of the Jonsson Workwear Open.

The Italian carded a blistering 61 on day two in South Africa and while he could not maintain that pace on Moving Day, six birdies and a single bogey moved him to 20 under as he searches for a first DP World Tour win in over a decade.

South Africa's Shaun Norris and Englishman Jordan Smith both carded rounds of 65 to sit a shot back, one clear of another home favourite in Oliver Bekker and Spain's Angel Hidalgo.

Manassero is back on Tour for the first time in five years after winning twice on last year's European Challenge Tour but it has been a long road back to the top.

After becoming the youngest winner in DP World Tour history at 17 years and 188 days in 2010 - a record he still holds - he won in each of the next three seasons but has just seven top tens since winning the BMW PGA Championship in 2013 and lost his card in 2018, making just one cut in his 18 starts the following year.

"It would mean a lot," he said of the prospect of winning again on the DP World Tour. "It would mean that I have done a really nice journey up to here but it is already a nice journey up to today so we'll think about tomorrow tomorrow.

"We'll see how it goes. It's really difficult to close tournaments out and to win. I'm in a position that I'm really happy to be in and all I can do is not force anything... I'm just going to try and be myself and play golf.

"Winning gave me confidence last year that I was on the right track and I was playing well and a lot of things. Winning is great but there is a lot more around that needs to work and needs to be improved which at the end makes the result come."

Manassero found himself at the base of a tree off the third tee to drop a shot but he regained it on the par-five fourth and was soon in a six-way tie at the top.

The 30-year-old played a beautiful bunker shot on the sixth hole to set up a birdie and then put an approach to five feet at the seventh to get to 17 under.

Hidalgo went birdie-bogey on the third and fourth but then made a pair of gains before holing from ten feet at the tenth after a fine shot from the rough and making a right-to-lefter from similar range on the on the 11th.

That put him in a two-way tie and it was soon a four-man group as the gettable 11th bore fruit for the field.

Smith had responded to a bogey on the first with four birdies in a row from the third and produced a remarkable shot from the rough to four feet at the 11th to set up an eagle.

Norris had birdies on the third, fifth, sixth and tenth and when he got up and down from the sand at the 11th, he too was at 17 under.

Hidalgo needed to get up and down to save par at the par-five after finding the water but Manassero had no such issue, putting his second to 14 feet and two-putting to lead alone again.

Smith then called a penalty on himself at the 13th after the ball moved a fraction at address and was at 16 under but he would bounce back with a big finish.

The lead had not been more than one shot all day as the contenders jostled for position but Manassero changed that at the 12th with a beautiful tee-shot to 15 feet and a right-to left putt.

Norris cut the gap to one as he sandwiched a bogey on the 15th with two approaches to within ten feet and he hit the front on his own after leaving just three feet for eagle at the 17th.

Hidalgo also eagled the 17th after an excellent approach to follow up a bogey-birdie run from the 15th and joined Smith at 19 under.

Smith responded to his mistake at the 13th by leaving himself three feet at the 16th, two-putting the 17th and leaving himself three feet again at the last for a birdie-birdie-birdie finish.

There was then a delay of just over an hour due to the threat of lightning and upon the resumption, Manassero made a short putt on the 17th to complete a fine up-and-down from the sand and join the lead again.

The news was not as good for Norris and Hidalgo, who both bogeyed the last, with Hidalgo signing for a 67 to sit alongside Bekker, who made six birdies and two bogeys in a 68.

Spaniard Ivan Cantero chipped in twice en route to a 68 that left him at 17 under, one clear of South African Jacques Kruyswijk and Northern Ireland's Tom McKibbin and two ahead of China's Chen Guxin and Scot Connor Syme.

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