CITY OF THE SUN – Sergio Garcia fired 71 on the third day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge on Saturday to open a two-stroke lead as he sought a wire-to-wire victory at the seventh Rolex Series event of the season.
The Spaniard leads by four after round one, but fellow champion Major Louis Oosthuizen cuts it for one shot after 36 holes, and South Africa will be the closest challenger to Sunday at Gary Player Country Club.
Garcia will enter the final day with ten under as he attempts to make a back-to-back victory after winning at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters held by his own foundation, with Oosthuizen bagging 72 to take second place.
Detry Thomas Belgium, Finn Mikko Korhonen and Lee Westwood from England are in seventh position, a clear shot from another English player in Ross Fisher.
Garcia had nine wins from 14 holes 54 previously on the European Tour and will be the second wire-to-wire winner of the season after Eddie Pepperell of England at Sky Sports British Masters.
The win will be Garcia's wire-to-wire second victory in the last two seasons and his third win at Gary Player Country Club after winning this event in 2001 and 2003 before joining the European Tour International Schedule.
In an effort to remain in the hunt for the Race to Dubai next week, Li Haotong and Lucas Bjerregaard both need wins but ten and 14 shots respectively, while Rory McIlroy – who needs a top two finish – is on the same level. .
Garcia got the green par-five second in two for birdies, hit the approach to three feet on the third and then made a very good nominal on the fourth after finding a terrible position from the tee in par three.
Korhonen dropped the first shot of the day on the fifth but the double breakers on the sixth got him back to six below.
Oosthuizen found sand from the seventh third tee and dropped a shot but approach to the four legs in the ninth cut Garcia led back to three.
Korhonen took a birdie in a fifth and with Garcia playing an awkward chip after crashing into a tree on the 13th, he was only three back.
Oosthuizen put third in the sand and then flew green on the 14th to drop a shot, leaving the door open for Korhonen, who put his approach up to five feet to move to a second solo just two behind.
Then there was a two-shot swing on the 17th, with Garcia birdie from 12 feet and Korhonen losing the green and failing to get up and down.
Garcia made his second last minute goal in the stands to close the round with a bogey, with Oosthuizen sending a wild crowd of hosts as he birdied ten feet after getting lucky.
Local favorite Darren Fichardt got a 67 card to sit in the bottom four, a clear shot from fellow Dean Burmester of South Africa and French duo Benjamin Hebert and Mike Lorenzo-Vera. – African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Michael Sherman
Africa News Agency (ANA)
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