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Thriston Lawrence moves ahead in Johannesburg

Thriston Lawrence moves ahead in Johannesburg

Thriston Lawrence will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Joburg Open as he looks to lift the trophy in Johannesburg for the second time in three years.

The home favourite started the day one shot off the top but carded a 67 to get to 15 under and lead the way from countryman Dean Burmester, with Jacques Kruyswijk and Nikhil Rama at 11 under, one clear of Zander Lombard as South Africans locked out the top six.

Lawrence became the first winner of the DP World Tour era when he won this event two years ago and he has gone on to add three more titles and claim the 2022 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award.

He followed up that maiden campaign with another top 20 finish on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex last week, missing out on a PGA TOUR card and dual membership by just a single shot with a tie for fifth at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

He now has the chance to win a fifth DP World Tour title and third on home soil in the second event of the Opening Swing as the 2024 season gets under way.

"I had a game-plan and it was to try and play the exact same golf as I did the first two rounds and I executed it," he said. "I stayed nice and patient.

"I could have gone lower, not a lot of made putts, there was a couple at the end that I could have made but it's job done and I'm happy with it.

"The game-plan is exactly the same tomorrow, I'll try and make a few more putts than today but I'm very happy with the game, I'm playing really well so same game-plan."

Overnight leader Rama had a nightmare start as he four-putted the first for a double bogey and he dropped another shot at the fourth after finding the trees.

That left the door open for Lawrence and he made a 13-footer at the second to lead by two but Burmester trimmed the gap to one as he made the most of a fortunate bounce at the second and registered a two-putt birdie at the par-five fifth.

Lawrence was two ahead again as he also took advantage of the fifth but he gave the shot back on the next with three putts from a long way off the green.

Burmester three-putted the seventh to fall back himself and that left Kruyswijk and Lombard as the nearest challengers.

Kruyswijk had bogeyed the second and third but he holed a long right-to-lefter on the fourth, took advantage of the fifth and made another long putt on the sixth.

An approach to six feet at the ninth had him just one back and Lombard also got to 12 under with a birdie after using the bank at the fourth, a two-putt at the fifth and an up-and-down at the par-five tenth.

Lawrence kept hold of his lead thanks to a chip-in for par at the eighth and almost repeated the trick at the tenth, hitting the pin before tidying up for a birdie and a two-shot advantage.

Rama finally got his round going with a birdie from seven feet at the 11th and he and Burmester had company at 11 under after Lombard dropped a shot thanks to a poor tee-shot at the 12th.

Kruyswijk put an approach to ten feet at the 13th, playing partner Burmester also made a gain after a booming drive and Lombard got to 12 under on the 14th courtesy of a long putt but they all gave those shots straight back after ragged tee-shots on the following holes.

Rama played a beautiful approach to five feet at the 13th and when he followed it with an excellent tee-shot using the slope to roll to six feet at the 14th, he was back level for the day and just one back.

The 22-year-old gave a shot back on the next, however, after hitting his tee-shot right and with Lawrence sending his drive 430 yards with the help of the cart path and making a birdie from ten feet, the lead was three.

Burmester pitched to six feet on the 17th to get to 12 under with a 68 but Kruyswijk three-putted the last after hitting the pin and rolling a long way away in his 69, Rama found water on the last for a bogey and a 72 and Lombard dropped a shot on the same hole for a 69.

South Africa's Darren Fichardt carded a 68 to sit at nine under, one shot clear of England's Daniel Brown and two ahead of a group of eight players including defending champion Dan Bradbury.

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