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Thriston Lawrence stays ahead as Clément Sordet challenges in South Africa

Thriston Lawrence stays ahead as Clément Sordet challenges in South Africa

Thriston Lawrence took a two-shot lead into the final round of the Investec South African Open.

The reigning Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year held off playing partner Clément Sordet to keep himself in pole position at Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate with a second successive round of 67 to reach 18 under par.

Frenchman Sordet continued to close in as he matched his second-round 66 to get to 16 under, the highlight a spectacular eagle at the tenth, with Sweden's Jens Fahrbring third at 12 under.

Lawrence's putting has been a revelation all week and he continued in the same vein by holing from the fringe for an opening birdie.

A perfect approach at the fourth set up a simpler birdie putt but at the next, he completely mishit his chip from the side of the green before holing a long putt over a ridge to climb to 16 under.

He found sand trouble at the ninth, leading to his first dropped shot of the day, but recovered the shot at the long 13th - a fine chip from short of the green to close range helping him match Sordet, who was pin-high in two but missed a makeable eagle putt.

A nerveless two-putt par at the 16th, where Sordet's birdie attempt stayed up on the lip, maintained Lawrence's lead and the duo traded birdies at each of the last two holes to open up a cushion at the top.

Lawrence said: “It was good fun, myself and Clément played really well, sort of feeding from one another.

“Started off nicely with a few long ones and then sort of lost momentum around the turn, but 18 under – I didn’t think the winning score would be 18 under and I’m there after three rounds. But still a lot of work to do tomorrow.

“I’m hitting it really well but the putter has been the bonus one for me this week. Hopefully I’ll get it going tomorrow again.”

Sordet said: “It was a lot of fun, I managed to shoot six under and Thriston played really well, had some good scores.

“It’s going to be a challenge to catch him tomorrow but I’ll give it my best. It’s great to be back in the last group and I’m just going to have fun and we’ll see at the end.”

Ockie Strydom, the third member of the group having been second behind Lawrence at the halfway stage, was five over for his round after starting with four fives and a six, but a birdie at the eighth stopped the rot before a superb approach to three feet at the 10th set up eagle - though Sordet overshadowed him with a spinning left-to-right chip-in for the same score.

Strydom finished the day at eight under, a run of three successive bogeys on the back nine dropping him down the leaderboard before he too managed a birdie-birdie finish to limit the damage.

Fahrbring gave two early birdies back with successive dropped shots at the sixth and seventh, but a pinpoint approach to the ninth and a birdie putt from the fringe of the 13th got him back on track and a closing gain saw him to a round of 69.

Wu Ashun and his playing partner James Hart Du Preez were moving into contention with matching rounds, both four under par through 16 holes to reach 10 under for the tournament, until Du Preez found water at the last two holes.

While he slipped back to eight under, Wu birdied the last for a 67 to stand alone in fourth at 11 under.

Martin Simonsen produced the round of the day, a four-birdie start leading to a seven-under-par 65 and fifth place on 10 under alongside Christian Maas and Wilco Nienaber.

Leading amateur Maas weathered a difficult spell on the front nine to come home in 33 and hold a four-shot lead over fellow South African Yurav Premlall in the race for the Freddie Tait Cup.

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